Efe Obada: British NFL player returning to London – and firing Tom Brady

While back in the UK this summer, Obada watched the UK national flag football championships and tryouts for the latest NFL Academy recruit

Returning to the UK gave Efe Obanda a break from the NFL spotlight. Not anymore.

When the 30-year-old returned home during the off-season, he was recognized at his local supermarket in south London.

And when his wife saw some teenagers throwing an American football near their house, one of them said: “I’m going to be the next Efe Obanda.”

Obada describes his wife as “his rock” — she’s been by his side for much of his NFL journey since abandoned in London after being trafficked to the UK as a child.

He tells BBC Sport: “When he told me that story, I said, ‘Wow.’ It made her smile in her heart.

“London was like my escape. I was back and nobody knew me. I could just walk around and do what I do.

“I get spotted more and more now. Or people give me that ‘in between look’ because they think they know me or I must be something because of my size.”

But Obama, who is 6ft 6in, knows his elevated profile has many upsides.

“It was to my advantage when I went to a commercial gym to exercise,” she says. “The guy knew who I was, so he let me in for free.

“It’s nice because it shows that the game is growing. Since 2015 when I started in the NFL, it has changed so much.

“England is embracing the sport and it’s becoming part of their culture. Now I’ve got kids hitting me up on social media telling me they want to be American football players.”

“I had to go to the park to exercise”

Obanda effect
Obada will miss this year’s London games but made an emotional return as Carolina beat Tampa Bay at Tottenham in 2019

With Jack Crawford having retired, Obada – in his fifth season as an active player – is the longest-tenured Briton in the NFL.

The defensive end is on a multi-million dollar contract with the Washington Commanders, having previously played for the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills.

But aside from the free gym sessions, he struggled for places to stay in shape during the off-season.

When he’s back home, he often has to work out in public parks — just like he did in 2014, when he was working in a warehouse and dreaming of the NFL after discovering the sport with the London Warriors.

“At first, the offseason was tough,” he says. “I had to go old school – go to the park to work out.

“In terms of some of the machines that I need to work on the technique and some of the explosive, dynamic movements, we just don’t have it [in the UK]. But I manage.

“I’ve been in the league longer than average, so I know what my body needs. Teams give you a fitness program, but I tailor it based on what I need, so I was definitely in shape. I did a lot of hill running.”

Looting of KATAS

Efe Obada fires Cam Newton
Obada added Cam Newton to his sack list while with the Buffalo Bills last season and now has 12 career sacks in 68 games

The Panthers gave the Nigerian-born Obada his NFL debut in 2018 and 2020 was his breakout season.

In the span of nine games, he sacked five of the best quarterbacks of the modern era, including Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. But one name stood out – the “Greatest of All Time,” Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“The fact that he’s the all-time leader at his position goes out the window, you just compete,” Obada said.

“When I got the layoff and he was down, I didn’t think about who he was or my individual success, I was just focused on winning.

“I didn’t know how huge it was until I got back to the locker room and my phone was blowing up with people saying, ‘You just sacked Tom Brady!’ I was so overwhelmed.”

A record seven-time Super Bowl winner, Brady announced his retirement at the end of last season, only to be revealed just 40 days later would return for a 23rd season.

Obada understands why.

“When the offseason comes around, I get really bored, so I get it,” he says.

“He probably got home and thought, ‘You know what, this is boring, let’s go play some football.’

“He loves the game, he’s contributed so much, and as long as he can keep playing at a high level then why not? It’s good to see him back – and it gives me another chance to sack him!”

“The impact it has had on my life is amazing”

Efe Obada takes on Trevor Lawrence
Obada helped Washington start the season with a win over Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who return to London on October 30.

Obada joined the Bills after the 2020 season, but Washington offered him a chance to reunite with former Carolina coach Ron Rivera.

“Last year, Buffalo and Washington were my last two choices,” he says. “I made the most of my opportunities in Buffalo, but then I felt it was time for a change.

“I decided if I had another chance, I would play for Washington. Ron is the only person I want to play for.

“He gave me my start in Carolina. He believes in international guys and gives them opportunities and the way he carries himself as a man was something I had never seen before.

“The impact it’s had on my life, the atmosphere and the ecosystem it creates, it’s just amazing.”

Under new quarterback Carson Wentz, Washington got off to a winning start but now has a 1-3 record. Their three NFC East opponents all have at least three wins.

One — the Philadelphia Eagles — is the only 4-0 team, but Obada fired quarterback Jalen Hurts two weeks ago and is enjoying more playing time than he did in Buffalo.

He may not be back home for this year’s London series, which continues this weekend, but he will still fly the British flag.

“It was nice to get on that board so early in the season,” he says. “I feel like week by week I’m getting stronger.

“We’re not where we want to be, but it doesn’t define us. If we can go on a little streak, we can close that gap.”

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