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Efe, you say: Panthers' Obada makes an explosive league debut
Defensive end nabs interception, pick in win
 
Published Sunday, September 23, 2018 5:36 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON
Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada (94) pressures Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton in the Panthers' 31-21 win Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. Obada, a native of Nigeria who grew up in the Netherlands and London, is the first athlete from the NFL's International Pathway Program to make a season-opening roster. He tallied an interception and a sack in his NFL debut.

Efe Obada played with a point to prove.

The Panthers defensive end’s first NFL game resulted in a 31-21 win for Carolina against Cincinnati, but it did more than improve their record to 2-1 ahead of the bye week. Obada, a Nigerian by way of the Netherlands and London, is an unknown in NFL circles. He spent last year on Carolina’s practice squad as part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program and became the initiative’s first participant to make a season-opening roster. On Sunday, he marked another historic moment by producing a sack and an interception in his debut.

“I’m speechless,” said Obada, whose name is pronounced Ef-ay O-bah-dah. “I’m emotional. I’m happy. I’m full of adrenaline.”

Said quarterback Cam Newton, who nicknamed Obada “Wakanda” after the fictional African kingdom in the Black Panther comic book series: “Opportunity knocked on his door, and he opened it smiling. For him to be kind of a developmental player and not having the big university experience and to see him have a day like today, the sky is the limit for him.”

Obada did not make the active roster against Dallas or Atlanta, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington decided his performance in practice ahead of Cincinnati warranted the opportunity.

“We’ve been watching the young guys practice,” Rivera said. “Eric and I talked about it, and we felt that we were going to tell these young guys that whoever we feel strongly about their practice habits, that they are going to get an opportunity. Last week, we thought Marquis [Haynes, a defensive end] out-practiced everybody. This week I thought Efe practiced very well. Eric and I talked about it, but we also had an extra spot because of the injuries, and we activated [defensive end] Bryan Cox, who had a good week, and Marquis had a good week as well, but I just thought that Efe deserved the opportunity.”

Obada strip-sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first half, which was overturned by video replay. Obada’s next opportunity came in the second half with the second of Carolina’s four interceptions on the day.

“At that moment, it was too early in the game,” Obada said of the strip-sack, which was ruled an incomplete pass. “Whatever happened wouldn’t really affect the game. I wanted to affect the game, and my main focus was we have to win. It doesn’t matter about the sacks and the strip-sacks. If we didn’t win, it wouldn’t mean anything.”

Said cornerback James Bradberry, who tipped the pass Obada claimed for an interception: “For a guy to come over and not play football that long and be able to make an impact on this team, I’m proud of him.”

While Obada may be new to the rest of the world, his teammates knew what they were getting.

“I saw him last year when he was on the practice squad, and just the reps that he gave in practice were amazing,” Bradberry said. “I knew that he had the ability to play.”

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