Christian Wade’s American football dream is about to come true, says British NFL star Efe Obada.
Wade, 30, quit rugby in 2018 to pursue an NFL career and has been training with the Buffalo Bills since 2019.
He is yet to play an NFL game but this year’s pre-season is his best chance yet of earning a spot on the Bills’ roster, alongside new signing Obada.
“He’s taken the time to work on his craft and, honestly, he’s going to shock the world this year,” said Obada.
Wade has already made a big impression on the NFL scene. On his very first carry in an American football game in the 2019 pre-season, he ran for a 65-yard touchdown.
But what happened next with the former Wasps and England winger, who has been converted into a running back, and what happens now?
Wade still trying to make the cut after dream debut
Wade played in three pre-season games in 2019 but come ‘cutdown day’ he missed out on Buffalo’s main 53-man roster.
That meant Wade couldn’t play in 2019 but would continue to learn the intricacies of his new sport as part of the Bills’ practice squad.
When he joined Buffalo in April 2019, the team was given a two-year exemption to have Wade on their practice squad. His hopes of pushing for selection in 2020 were dealt a blow by the pandemic though.
The off-season programme was severely disrupted and there were no pre-season games to showcase his progress.
But in April, Wade was granted a third exemption year with the Bills, giving him a full off-season and pre-season to convince them he’s ready. He didn’t feature in their first pre-season game on Friday but Buffalo have two more before naming their 2021 squad on 31 August.
“The 2020 off-season wasn’t the same experience, but there were a lot of similarities,” said Wade.
“I just had to approach it like it was any other adversity in my career. I took one day at a time, kept on top of what I need to know, and used it as an opportunity to fill in the gaps where I might have been behind.
“I think it’s put me in a good position for this year. Now the pre-season’s back on, we’ve had a full training camp and everything’s looking good.”
Obada’s arrival makes it the ‘British Bills’
Despite growing up in Buckinghamshire, Wade has settled into life in upstate New York.
He’s got engaged to American model Lisa Ramos, who happens to be close friends with Josh Allen’s girlfriend, so he’s spent plenty of time hanging out with the Buffalo quarterback.
He’s also hosted a weekly show on the Bills’ YouTube channel, interviewing team-mates and even the team owners, which usually ended with Wade teaching them some English rhyming slang.
Now the 5ft 7in Wade has formed a little and large double act with the 6ft 6in Obada, who has joined the Bills on a one-year deal from the Carolina Panthers.
Obada says Wade is “like a local celebrity” in Buffalo and the Nigeria-born Londoner is also proving popular.
“We speak different, that’s why,” laughed the defensive lineman, 29.
“Christian’s so loved here. When you’re around him, he makes everybody laugh, he’s so bubbly and energetic.
“But then at the same time, when you’re out on the field, you can see that he’s really working hard and he’s here for a reason.
“I don’t have to say nice things about him – we have that kind of friendship and rapport. But you’ve got to give credit where it’s due.”
Obada aims to build on best season yet
Abandoned on the streets of London aged 10, Obada later worked in a factory while playing for the London Warriors, an amateur American football team.
But with the help of the NFL’s International Player Pathway (IPP) programme, he managed to make it to the big time.
The scheme was formed to create a direct route to the NFL for overseas players, outside the American college system, and Obada is seen as its biggest success story.
He became the first graduate to make a 53-man roster in 2018, shortly before Wade joined the programme.
But Obada is no stranger to the “emotional rollercoaster” of cutdown day, which now awaits Wade once more.
Right after tweeting his gratitude at staying in Carolina’s squad last year, Obada was cut by the Panthers, only to be re-signed a day later.
“It did put a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “But I saw it as an opportunity to work on what I lacked. I believe I’m a better player for it.
“In the NFL you have to prove yourself every day, not just because you get released or you go to a new team. There’s always someone at your heels, trying to take your job.”
Obada went on to enjoy his best season yet, recording sacks against the likes of legendary quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in 2020.
That saw the offers pour in for 2021, and he felt the best option was Buffalo, where he’s been reunited with his old friend from 2018.
A crucial phase of the IPP programme is an intensive training camp at Florida’s IMG academy before linking up with an NFL team, and Obada briefly returned while Wade was making his NFL transition.
“It’s amazing,” said Wade. “I know Efe from before the journey. Three years later we’re on the same team.”
Last season that team won its division for the first time in 25 years and went one win from the Super Bowl. Now they’ve signed quarterback Josh Allen to a six-year extension and are being tipped to go all the way.
“And I’ve got this guy as well [nodding towards Wade], which kind of makes my day a little bit lighter and brighter,” Obada added.