CHARLOTTE – On Monday, defensive end Efe Obada was paid a visit by a man named Will Bryce, who heads up the NFL International Player Pathway program.
It was a check-in of sorts to see how Obada has been progressing since coming to Carolina last May and spending the 2017 season on the practice squad. Obada, who was a part-time security guard when he lived in London, plays it cool whenever Bryce asks how things are going.
“I’m very nonchalant about it,” Obada said with a smile.
Truth is, he’s anything but nonchalant when it comes to football.
The odds are long enough to make it in the NFL after three or four playing at the major college level. It’s exponentially harder for a guy who first started playing football four years ago, at the age of 22.
“He had to become a different type of student of the game because of the lack of background in football,” defensive coordinator Eric Washington said. “He’s been a sponge. He’s always asking for extra stuff, whether in the classroom or out here at practice.”
The hard work has been paying off.
In the second preseason game against Miami, Obada notched a sack late in the first half after cutting inside on Dolphins offensive tackle Sam Young and powering his way to quarterback Brock Osweiler.
“I owe that one to Kyle Love,” Obada said. “He’s the one that called up the stunt, and I was supposed to pick the guard, but I was so far ahead that I just committed – just hustled really.”
Obada nearly made it two sacks in two plays. Nearly. This time Obada and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall - who was lined up inside next to Obada - ran a twist that worked to perfection. Obada had a clear path to Osweiler, but Hall also made his way to the spot. In the end, the two rushers got in each other’s way, and Osweiler chucked the ball out of bounds.
“Almost had another one,” Obada said. “I came inside and just wasn’t coordinated enough. The quarterback saw me, and Daeshon and I kind of ran into each other. It was either mine or his, and it became none of ours.”
Two sacks would have been nice, but a sack and a pressure on back-to-back plays sure ain’t bad.
It’s a snapshot of Obada’s development.
“Less thinking,” Obada said when asked how he’s grown. “I do regress a little bit sometimes. But when I trust the training and apply what I learn from the drills, I perform. When I start to think too much, I play slow.”
Obada’s goal for this season is simple: “Make the 53.”
He’s competing with Hall, Bryan Cox Jr. and other hopefuls for that fifth (and typically final) defensive end spot on the roster.
The folks from the International Pathway Program are still waiting to see one of their players earn a spot on a 53-man roster.
Bryce has his fingers crossed Obada will be the first.
“I don’t think anybody in this world apart from my wife wants me to make the 53 more,” Obada said.