by Efe Obada
I was born in Nigeria, but I moved to Holland to live with my Mum when I was about eight years old. I lived with my Mum for about two years and then at the age of ten I was brought to England by a stranger that was supposed to look after me and my sister.
They did not.
They abandoned us in the streets of East London and left my sister and I to fend for ourselves. A security guard at the building we were supposed to stay in helped us get in contact with my mother, who then made arrangements with a woman she just met to take us in.
After a while, this arrangement then broke down and my sister and I eventually ended up in foster care. We bounced around from home to home until we were of age to live by ourselves.
As I got older, it became apparent I wasn't like everyone else. I couldn't further my education or gain employment because I was undocumented. I was stuck. I began hanging around the wrong people in an effort to fit in and survive. Some poor choices led me to get in trouble, and it was then I decided to turn my life around.
At one point, I ran into one of my old friends who invited me to one of his practice sessions at the London Warriors, a professional American football club. I instantly fell in love with the aggression of the game, and I saw it as an outlet for some of my anger. Coach Aden Durde took me under his wing and whilst interning as a coach with the Dallas Cowboys he managed to get me a workout.
I signed with the Cowboys. The transition into football was the hardest, but most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life. I had to learn everything: the rules, the terms, the technique. But I still made the practice squad.
Although I was released a few times during the season, this was a great achievement for me. I was then released during the offseason and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Shortly after, they released me and I signed with the Atlanta Falcons and took part in their 2016 training camp. Unfortunately, I didn't land on a team for the 2016 season. However, I took the time out to learn the game and work on my weaknesses in order to give myself the best chance the following year.
During the offseason of 2016, I was very fortunate because I was given the opportunity to be in the NFL International Pathways Program. I found out I would be heading to North Carolina to play for the Panthers.
My experience so far has been amazing. I'm surrounded by great athletes, coaches and staff. I even got my first NFL sack in the preseason game against the Houston Texans. I am very excited to be in this position, and I intend to use this opportunity to grow and develop as a player and do whatever i need to do to help this team win.
I am grateful for the people that have helped me become the man I am today, on and off the field. I am indebted to Aden Durde for being the first man to believe in me and for his support through this process. I hope one day to make him proud. I am also thankful for my amazing wife, she has been a huge pillar in my success. I can honestly say if it wasn't for her love, patience and consistency I wouldn't be where I am today. I am thankful for all the amazing people I have encountered on my road to the NFL.
My journey to the NFL hasn't been a traditional one and my life before football may seem foreign to some, but many young people have been and still are in the same situation I once was in. My hope is to be an inspiration to anyone that is going through what I once was. I also hope to become a contender in the NFL and continue to improve as a player and a man.
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