At age 31, the NFL’s Efe Obada is still going strong. Having played for the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and the Washington Commanders since 2022, the Nigerian-British football player has been on the field professionally since joining the (BAFA League) London Warriors in 2014. Almost 10 years on, not only does Obada look as good as ever, but he’s also investing his time and energy into giving the youth of today the kind of mentorship that he never had.
M&F sat down with the 6’6”, 225-pound gentle giant to learn more.
“For me, because I’m a defensive lineman, it’s a lot of being in the trenches and going up against a lot of guys,” says Obada of the intense action that he sees on the field. “So, it’s very contact based.” As such, training for this kind of play requires specific training techniques. “There’s a lot of explosive work,” shares Obada. “Foundationally, you want to get that strength built, but there’s a lot of explosive, reactionary, and fluidity as well.”
How Efe Obada Trains to be a Defensive Lineman
Obada explains that different to other positions such as a kicker, quarterback, or receiver where there is more forward running, his own play requires a lot more physicality, and then there’s the unorthodox movements such as twists and turns, as he finds himself running in different directions to chase the ball.
“The position requires running around the edge, leaning, reaching, hand-eye coordination, as well as it being stop-start” says Obada. “So, you’re conditioning has to be on-point as well.” This conditioning involves a lot of plyometric work, designed to contract and then elongate his muscles and tendons, while building bone density. “A lot of box jumps, and then also ladder work as well,” says Obada.
The ladder rep scheme ascends or descends with each set, but the load remains the same. Many athletes execute ladder workouts because they are a great way to lift a large volume of weight in a short amount of time. On top of all this, Obada does footwork, and also practices his leverage control by pulling and pushing asymmetrical loads, exercising with cable machines or moving a weighted sled.
How Efe Obada Trains for Longevity in the NFL
Obada first played for the NFL when he put on jersey for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. You wouldn’t realize to look at him, but Obada is one of Britain’s longest tenured players. In order to have this kind of career, careful thought needs to go into training smart for the long term. The Washington Commanders star says that while he loves to lift heavy, he saves those sessions for the off-season in order to perform at the best possible level on the field.
“I do enjoy it, but I think there is a time for it, because once you go on that rep to failure, the next day you are going to pay for it,” he says. “You obviously tear (muscle) fibers and need time to heal. During the football season, or times where you need that short (recovery) turnaround, you don’t really have the time to heal, so you work toward a certain range where it’s mainly strength retention…in order for you to make sure that you can compete on the field.”
How Efe Obada is Mentoring the Next Generation of Football Players
They way in which Obada arrived from Nigeria to London as a 10-year-old boy is a story that the player, understandably, feels uncomfortable sharing. Reports suggest that he was trafficked along with his sister and soon found himself homeless.
“I was brought to England by a stranger who was supposed to look after me and my sister. They did not,” said Obada in an interview with The Guardian in 2019. “They abandoned us in the streets of east London and left my sister and I to fend for ourselves.” It’s a period of his life that the gentle giant still finds hard to process, or speak about, and he’s learned that great things come from looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past. For Obada, there’s one word that is at the forefront of his mind whether talking about his own rise to fame, or the potential for the next generation to do the same, and that word is “opportunity.”
That’s why he’s working with the NFL Academy in the U.K., to create local heroes by providing an opportunity to land elite college scholarships on the pathway to a professional football career. Obada is also helping to front a youth camp at the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace, London, on July 13 in partnership with BIGKID; a registered charity that works actively with young people through sports engagement, leadership programs, and mentoring support.
“I feel like, if I can create more opportunities, show younger kids something different to the environment that they are used to, and show that I’m from where you are from, we have similar, shared, lived experiences, and this is where I’m at right now and you have that capability, so you can achieve those dreams and goals for yourself. I feel strongly about it.” Both on and off the field, Obada serves as an inspiration for many. Through hard work and determination, he’s beaten the odds to raise himself up from life’s challenges, and he’s eager to give others a much-needed leg-up too. We salute you, Sir.
The Efe Obada Youth Camp is a partnership with the BIGKID Foundation and the NFL Foundation. To find out more about the NFL Foundation and its commitment to supporting young people, please visit nflfoundationuk.org. For more information on the BIGKID Foundation and its mission to end social exclusion and youth violence, please visit, bigkidfoundation.org.