After finding his feet in Carolina, Efe Obada is taking the next step in his NFL career.
Now at the Buffalo Bills – a playoff team for the fourth time in five years – Obada has taken success in his stride as he prepares for his first postseason game in the frozen tundra of western New York.
‘The approach is the same – the next game is the most important game. Everybody’s just making sure everybody’s on the same page,’ says the 6ft 6in defensive lineman.
Efe Obada puts pressure on New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on Boxing Day
‘Once you’re in this building, you know you have to work and you have to do whatever you can to contribute towards the success of the team as a whole. And that’s just that’s really what it is.
‘We know the Patriots – we’ve played them twice already. They know us and it’s just about who executes on that day. That’s what it’s going to come down to.’
Obada sacked former team-mate Cam Newton twice when the Bills beat Carolina in December
Buffalo wrapped up a second straight AFC East title and will host New England tomorrow after tying the series this season. The Patriots ground out a win in Buffalo in the first week of December, and Buffalo pounded their way to victory in Foxboro on Boxing Day.
The versatile Obada, who has 3.5 sacks this season, played two thirds of defensive snaps that day along the D-line, his most complete game since he joined Buffalo in January.
‘I’m here to support and help this team win in any way I can, whether its 50 snaps, one snap, whatever,’ he said. ‘As long as I’m out there, you’re going to get my best effort.’
Obada has settled in nicely into the NFL’s top defense, becoming a rotational player
Obada entered the NFL thanks to the International Pathway Programme and has become its poster boy. Born in Nigeria, he was trafficked to London as a teenager with his sister, only taking up American football in his late teens.
He only played five games at the London Warriors before the Dallas Cowboys gave him a taste of life in the NFL in 2015 – and that was thanks to Aden Durde, then a Warriors coach and now the Cowboys current defensive line coach.
‘From day one, he was the first person that believed in me when nobody else did,’ Obada said.
‘He was able to make sure that opportunity with Dallas happen in terms of the workout and that changed the whole trajectory of my life.
Obada is preparing for his first playoff game after a remarkable journey into the NFL
‘In terms of him as a coach, he’s amazing. You can see it, he’s an NFL coach in the Dallas Cowboys, and they’re doing amazing things.
‘One thing that stuck with me every time I was struggling or I thought training was hard, he would say, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself”, so that’s something that really stuck with me.’
And should the Bills go a step further than last season and reach the Super Bowl, who better to face than Dallas?
‘We’re just focusing on the next game. When that opportunity presents itself, then we’ll have that conversation,’ Obada says.
Despite the Bills defense finishing first in the NFL for fewest yards, passing yards and points allowed, none of their roster reached the Pro Bowl.
Obada says the unit doesn’t worry about such things.
‘I get to see it behind the scenes – I get to see the development I get to see the plans and the work that we will put into this from the coaching staff all the way down to you know, guys that you don’t see like the practice squad guys and even some of the trainers. Their knowledge and their dedication to this and how they approach it. So I get to see that and I just know that this is a different environment. This is a special team.’
And after leaving Carolina, who will stick with head coach Matt Rhule despite missing out on the playoffs for a second straight season, Obada was asked what the differences were between the teams.
‘We’re in the playoffs!’ he joked.