Britain’s Efe Obada made a dream start to his NFL career in his first game for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The Panthers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 31-21, with Obada intercepting a pass in the third quarter.
Obada, 26, was trafficked into the UK from the Netherlands and left abandoned and homeless at 10 years old in Hackney, London.
“When my name did get called, I just knew I had to make the most of it,” he said.
His sack in the late fourth quarter brought the score to 28-21 and halted a potential comeback from the Bengals.
The defensive end played five games for the London Warriors in 2014, where he was spotted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
He was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs in March 2016 and the Atlanta Falcons in July 2016, but never played for either side.
Nigerian-born Obada earned a spot on the 53-man roster of the Carolina Panthers in May 2017.
“The players and coaches kept reassuring me, letting me know my opportunity was going to come,” Obada said after the game.
“Not getting that opportunity straight off the bat instilled in me that hunger and that drive that when I do get that opportunity, I’m going to ball out.
“I buried my head all week in my film studies, and then with some of the things I saw, it was instinctual. I knew what was coming.”
The Panthers’ general manager Marty Hurney praised Obada: “For a guy to come in at this stage and make the plays he did with the little amount of football he’s played – just think of the upside he’s got.”
His teammates were also full of praise after his standout performance.
Julius Peppers said: “He took the hard road. He grinded it out. I’m just really happy for him. Everybody is showing him a lot of love and he deserves it.”
Safety Mike Adams added: “I’m so happy for him. He was screaming, ‘They don’t know me, they don’t know me’.
“And I’m like, ‘You’re right, they don’t know you. You’re from London, you’re from London’, so making jokes with him.
“I’m just so happy for him. To put it all in perspective, he worked hard, he worked his butt off. He’s finally got an opportunity, he made the best of it.”