The 26-year-old defender became the first player in the NFL’s International Pathway Program, launched last year to help develop global talent, to make a team roster.
“All the suffering paid off,” Obada said in a posting on the team website. “I’ve lost a lot to get here. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot. I’ve been through a lot. I want to make those people who believed in me proud.”
It’s an epic journey that began in 2002 when, at age 10, a friend of his mother brought Obada and his sister to England but left them homeless to fend for themselves.
“This lady just left us out on the streets,” Obada told NFL UK. “It was scary and we were lonely.”
A friendly security guard and a woman with five other children helped Obada and his sister survive for five years before social services took over, leaving Obada hopping from house to house as a teen.
Obada began working as a security guard and at age 22 began playing American football part-time with an amateur club, the London Warriors.
A coach in the British league helped bring Obada to the attention of NFL scouts, but he could never grab a roster spot in attempts to join the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
When the international program began in 2017, the Panthers were given an extra practice squad spot for an non-US player and used it on Obada, giving him a chance to learn and develop under the watchful eyes of NFL personnel.
‘This has changed my life’
That made Saturday, the NFL deadline for final roster cuts ahead of the season that starts Thursday, a crucial day for Obada, who nervously walked into the Panthers’ headquarters.
“Walking in and getting released is what I’m used to,” Obada said. “I was walking in and making eye contact with everyone. No one spoke to me. I didn’t say anything to nobody. I made it to my locker and they still hadn’t stopped me or said anything.”
Still not believing he had finally made an NFL roster, Obada asked Panthers coach Ron Rivera, “Is it real?” The answer was yes.
“I’m grateful,” Obada said. “You know when you really want something and you get it and you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness.’
“I’m so happy. I’m going to enjoy this. I’ve been working very hard just to feel this.”
Obada, who made a quarterback sack for the Panthers in a pre-season contest, knows that getting the job is one major feat but keeping it quite another.
“This has changed my life. But I know that this is just the beginning,” Obada said.
Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington has already warned Obada that there is plenty more work to come.
“Coach E told me it’s going to be harder to hold onto it than it was to obtain it. And I know how hard I worked to obtain it,” Obada said.
“I know that because of the training here and the environment I’ve been in, I can go anywhere and survive. This has instilled the belief in myself that I needed.