Stockwell refugee who became NFL player encourages local youngsters to dream big

Efe Obada with winners Jayden Taylor and Vanessa Tabares
Efe Obada with winners Jayden Taylor and Vanessa Tabares

Efe Obada from the Carolina Panthers American football team brought his inspiring story back to South London as part of an NFL UK and Nike programme to promote the sport in the UK.

The programme was delivered in partnership with West Norwood based charity BIGKID Foundation that helps young people at risk of social exclusion and youth violence to find, develop and act on their own potential.

Obada’s journey from Stockwell to the NFL was not easy. A refugee from Nigeria, he was trafficked to the UK at the age of 10. He was left homeless and then placed into foster care in Lambeth.

At the age of 22, when he was working in a North London warehouse, a friend recommended that the 6ft 6in Obada try an American football training session. He was scouted shortly after, and the rest is history.

Obada’s story led the NFL and Nike to pilot their training programme in Stockwell, where they hoped to inspire the next generation of young people to dream big.

Jason Brisbane, head of community at NFL UK said: “You never know what will happen if you try something new, and you never know where it will take you.”

Over six weeks, 70 boys and girls from BIGKID Foundation were introduced to American Football.

At the end of the programme, their fitness and skills were put to the test during a combine – the showcase used by NFL scouts to spot new talent. For the youngsters this was a totally new experience – a chance to try a sport that many teenagers never get access to.

After the combine, NFL and Nike surprised two participants, Jayden Taylor and Vanessa Tabares, with an all-expenses paid trip to North Carolina, to visit the home of the Panthers and Efe Obada. As Obada says: “Keep pounding, and you’ll go places.”