One of Britain’s most successful NFL players, Efe currently plays as a Defensive End for the Washington Commanders. He was born in Nigeria, raised in the Netherlands and moved to England at the age of 10. He was the first player to go straight from a European Football League to the NFL, starting his career at the London Warriors in 2014. From there, Efe has played for the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, the Buffalo Bills and most recently signed with the Washington Commanders this season.
Efe is having a huge impact on the growth of NFL in the UK and is an ambassador of the NFL UK Academy.
Listen to this fascinating episode where Efe talks about how he got into the NFL, the physical demands of the game and what his ambitions are for the season and the sport as a whole.
Efe talks American Football
“I think a lot of people say it's like rugby but with pads and helmets!”
“There are a lot more intricacies and alot more details [in NFL]. But I think the causal viewer will just enjoy it based on the theatrics and the amount of things that go towards the game, its a huge show and a great experience and that's what I get from the UK following and the fans. It's a great atmosphere that it creates.”
“I can still remember the London game and it was electric [...] so many people were screaming and shouting, it was like a Super Bowl.”
“Everybody was having so much fun.[...]. After the game, when I was walking back into the tunnel, everybody was shouting my name, that was like ‘woah’!”
Life for Efe growing up
“Arrived in the UK when I was 10, went into foster care and then into school. When it comes to American Football.” I met one of my old friends from school, and he had some size to him and I asked him why he was so big and he told me he was playing American football and that I should come and try it out as I had the same physique.
“I saw these strange helmets and pads and these guys running around hitting each other. [...]. The coach there that was doing an internship from Dallas at the time, he facilitated an unofficial workout for me. [...]. The following year when Dallas were agreeing their roster I got a phone call to be a part of their 9man roster. I was so happy, I quit my job. [...]. Went to Dallas and tried out for them! Ever since then I’ve been in the NFL trying to find my home.”
“My first practice I ran into someone and thought I did something wrong and everyone was congratulating me and cheering me on. That was fun and was nice to be embraced and a part of this brotherhood, this team. That was something I wasn’t a part of, that made me fall in love with it, it was a nice outlet.”
“I worked in a warehouse in Welwyn Garden City” [...]. Very physical job, lifting and routine, very repetitive [...]. I felt like it was very soul destroying at times.”
Louise: ‘You’ve gone from that warehouse to where you are now, front page and centre of the biggest league in the world, it’s amazing.
“It gives me perspective, its really fun”
“Prior to the early years of the NFL, the UK, it was my home, I’d spend time with family and catch up [...]”
“Now it’s more NFL involved, I get involved with the academies, coached my own NFL camp and now I get spotted when I go out! [...]”
The opportunities in NFL
“I'm grateful there are more opportunities now. [..] “There are the academies, the international pathway programme, initiatives like the NFL Africa and there are charities like the Big Kids Foundation that are getting the grass roots levels and getting into schools [...].. A lot of amazing things are happening around American Football. [...].
Playing for the Washington Commanders
“Very family based organisation. Very open locker room. In some teams that I have been in I wouldn’t talk to people who play other positions. [...]. They’re genuinely really nice guys.
“It's a very dangerous game. Its for 100% injury rate so that’s hard. But it's very rewarding and fulfilling. I genuinely love it for what it's done and provided. But I love it as a competitor i love the game”
“At some point in their career, someone is going to get injured. And everybody who is playing is playing through something or has an injury [...].”
Physicality of training
Louise: So you’re 6ft6", did you have to put on weight for it?
“I did, so throughout my whole career, my weight has had to fluctuate so I can perform and do my role at the highest standard. Based on draft gates and people they bring in and sign, I would have to put on weight so I can do a different role in the team or lose weight.”
“I find it more enjoyable putting on weight, but I’m naturally skinny so its easier for me to probably lose weight”[...]. “There’s a nice balance.”
Intensity of training and the Wattbike
“I enjoy training on the bikes. Lower impact conditioning. And after the games, to get a nice flush going on. The following day, you don’t want to sit down and do nothing. It's like an active recovery.”
“Right now, I’m on a programme [...] strength programme - upper body, lower body. Core. There are little things I add myself.[...]. Last year I had a high ankle strain so I added things myself. But most of the part I’m on a set programme.
“This is my journey, this is my dream, my goals. I have to make sure I take ownership of it.”
“It’s my preparation, I make sure I have done everything I can do to put myself in a good position”
How do you mentally prepare for big games
“It's all a process, throughout the whole week, there's the mental, the physical, the emotion. So when you get out there, you can trust the process and your work - so you can rely on it and not make it up. [...]. There is a lot of film watching, putting myself in there sometimes I'll watch live games and turn it up really loud in the house so I can get immersed in the sounds, [...] the cadences of the game and get really focussed on the players and individuals.
“I trust my process is good enough and trust I’m a good enough athlete to complete my job.”
“It’s all confidence, honestly. At this level, everyone is talented, everyone is big and fast. A lot of people lack is preparation and confidence.”
Sacking the G.O.A.T
“The GOAT in the NFL, everyone would refer to is Tom Brady. And I was able to sack him. I tackled him before he was able to throw the ball to his receivers. [...].
“When I got back to the locker room, my phone was blowing off, everyone was so happy. It dawned on me what I did.”
“As you fall in love with the game and see everything he has accomplished, you appreciate that and value it [...].”
“It's nice to see the growth over the years in the UK, its nice to see so many initiatives come out of it. It's a game that's changed my life and I owe everything. I owe a lot of people who have supported me through the years. “
Outside of the game what do you do when you relax
“Off season is about 3 months. The main thing is to get away from it, let your body rest [...]. It's always been to try and close that gap. If I commit myself for so long, and get everything I want to get out of it. Then when I’m done I can do all the holidays [...].
“It feel like it helps. Every year I progress and get better.”
“I’m going to put it out there in the universe, I want to get my first double digit sack year. Maximum so far is 5 and a half.”
“Personally, I want to have my own training facility and have my own space where I can have an impact on kids.”
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given
“Learn it before you earn it. You can’t fake it. [...]. Even when you get to this level, and by chance you get exposed on the field, it's better to learn what you're trying to do and become, so when you're tested you can succeed.”