* (Editor's Note: Dan Turner, a journalist from England, has come across the pond for the second straight training camp, to get a closer look at America's Team. Throughout camp, Dan (@dtsturner) has provided some insight on several rookies, continuing today again with London's own Efe Obada.)*
OXNARD, Calif. - There is something about Efe Obada that is just so likeable. Obviously he's a compatriot of mine so that helps, but there are so many other reasons why everyone who meets him seems to instantly take to him. He doesn't even try to hide his enthusiasm for the game of American football, and told me about playing at Levi's Stadium on Sunday night.
"It was amazing. Everything is still so new to me, so I'm loving every bit of it."
After seeming a little disappointed following the Chargers game, Obada was in great spirits this time around.
"It was a better day. I'm not going to look on the negative side of things, I'm going to take the positives. It's an amazing experience, I'm enjoying it, I'm happy. I'm in love with the journey. I'm in love with the learning. It's addictive."
Other than one play where he failed to recognise a pulling guard and got pinned outside, Obada didn't seem to have any bad plays. In fact, the majority of his plays were actually very good. On two occasions, he was left unblocked on play-action passes, and both times, he recognised it, closed on the ball, and forced the quarterback to throw away, only a couple of steps away from a sack both times.
In the running game, he was equally impressive. Whether it was controlling his blocker on the backside to close up a cutback lane, or getting into the backfield before tracking back to make a one-armed tackle for no gain, the Londoner is making some plays out there. Even on plays which went away from him, his incessant motor meant that he was rarely too far from the ball.
"Within, there were some bad plays. There was a few things that I was supposed to do that I felt I didn't do, but like I said, it's a learning curve, and hey, (laughing) it's better than warehouse work."
Obada also told me about what it's like being on the sideline. Obviously in preseason, he may only be on the field for a few minutes over a three hour game, so it's a case of staying focused.
"I like to take mental reps, so I can learn. They shout out the plays (for the defense that is on the field), and I go over in my head what I'm supposed to do, and then I feel like I'm living it with them. As the plays are happening, I'm always thinking 'what would I do here?' It's different when I get on the field, but I use it for learning. Stay warm, cheer my team on, and when they come off the pitch, make sure I'm there for them, and congratulating them when they're successful."
The learning process was a constant theme throughout my interview with Efe, and rightfully so, as his is probably as hard as anyone has ever had to make it in the NFL. Others have made the transition from other countries, yes. Menelik Watson (of the Raiders) and Jack Crawford did, but both were also extremely good basketball players, Laurence Okoye (of the 49ers) has, but he was an Olympic discus thrower, and Jarryd Hayne (also of the 49ers) is attempting to, but he was one of the best rugby league players in the world.
For Obada however, American football is the first sport he has actually played seriously (although I can attest to the fact that he's a very good soccer player). He is living a totally different life to the one he led until just months ago. It's quite astounding therefore that he's picked up the game so quickly.
[embeddedad0]"I'm just trying to get faster, and read my keys. I made a few mistakes, but at the end of the day, I'm going to learn from them. It's just improving on my keys and angles, and things like that."
If there has been one play that epitomises Obada, it was in the practice against the Rams of last Tuesday. It was a big play, with one of the Rams tight ends making his way to the end zone for a long touchdown, and Obada chased him downfield about 50 yards from the backside and makes the tackle. His almost superhuman athleticism is what got him recognized by the Cowboys, but it's his motor and work ethic that will take him to the next level.
Obada was my main player of focus when I arrived in California, for obvious reasons. The player who I saw at the start of camp, compared to the one that I (and many others) see now is barely recognisable. For most rookies, it's about learning the intricacies of the game, whereas for Obada, he has also had to learn the game.
It's been an absolute pleasure to be able to watch Obada in training camp and preseason, as well as get to know him personally. I do not know what Efe Obada's future holds, but what I do know is that he has fight, and he's going to give this dream of his everything he's got.