CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers and their NFC South foes will have an 11th player on their practice squads this upcoming season as a part of the new International Player Pathway Program.
Defensive end Efe Obada will spend the 2017 season on Carolina's practice squad but won't be eligible for promotion to the 53-man roster. The NFC South was selected for this opportunity by random draw.
Obada, along with tight end Alex Gray (Falcons), linebacker Eric Nzeocha (Buccaneers) and defensive end Alex Jenkins (Saints) have been training for the past three months alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida, under the supervision of two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora and NFLUK head of football development Aden Durde.
"This is an important part of the league's overall strategy to grow internationally," NFL executive vice president of international & events Mark Waller said. "We are building this pathway program to provide international athletes with the opportunity to play in the league, which will increase the pool of talent, inspire others and ultimately drive fan growth."
Obada has some NFL experience and got his foot in the door with a helping hand from Durde, who was defensive coordinator for the London Warriors of the British American Football Association National Leagues in 2014 and a coaching intern for the Cowboys that same year. Durde mentioned Obada to the Cowboys, and Obada became the first player to go from a European pro league to the NFL after not playing college football. Obada spent portions of the 2015 season on Dallas' practice squad and parts of last offseason with the Chiefs and Falcons.
"I am very happy and excited about the opportunity," said Obada, who was raised in London after moving from the Netherlands at age 10. "I feel like this is something I need to progress and further my career. I am very grateful to the guys who have worked with us and put their neck on the lines for us. It's a chance to develop my skills, and it is going to be nice to be in that NFL environment again."