Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NFLer Idonije boosts youth

Brandon-raised lineman runs camp

  • Print
Israel Idonije interacts with young players at a football camp at the University of Manitoba Saturday.

DOUGLAS LITTLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Israel Idonije interacts with young players at a football camp at the University of Manitoba Saturday. Photo Store

Sorry, Blue Bomber fans, Israel Idonije isn't thinking about jumping ship from the NFL.

The Brandon-raised free agent defensive lineman was in town over the weekend to run a camp for underprivileged kids at the University of Manitoba on Saturday.

But before he put the kids through their paces, his former college coach, Brian Dobie, gave him a tour of Investors Group Field, the new home of the Bombers and the U of M Bisons, for whom he played for five seasons.

'I had dreams and goals just as they do. The reason I've made it is by being able to make the right decisions and stay focused'

-- NFL free agent Israel Idonije's message to young people

When asked if the just-opened facility would be a nice place to play, the first Manitoban to ever make the NFL said with a laugh, "To play golf? To play what?"

The 32-year-old free agent, who estimates he has another year or two left until he retires, has received a contract offer from the Chicago Bears, where he has played for the last 10 years.

"We're going to wait. Training camp doesn't start until end of July. Hopefully in the next three to four weeks we'll settle on a contract. Either we'll be in Chicago or somewhere else but we'll be playing football," he said.

Idonije doesn't have to look very far for inspirational examples when he's running his camps. Many would consider his own story pure fantasy. Born in Nigeria, his family moved to Brandon when he was four years old. He didn't even start playing football until he was 17 and even then only because he was told it would get him in better shape for basketball, his first love.

From there, he attended a provincial team camp, which was overseen by Dobie, and he was recruited to play at the U of M.

And whenever he was told he wouldn't make his goal, his support system of family and friends told him otherwise.

"My message to (the kids) is simple. I'm no different than any of them. Once upon a time, I sat in the same desk in the same gym. I had dreams and goals just as they do. The reason I've made it is by being able to make the right decisions and stay focused," he said.

"You need to know who you are, what you stand for and what you're about. Every single kid has a gift, an ability and you have value to your community. (We say) 'What is your plan for your life? Let's put together some short-term and long-term goals that will allow you to achieve that dream.' "

Idonije said he considered the CFL a "soft" goal. After being invited to play in the coveted East-West Shrine game south of the border near the end of his college career, he bulked up so he could play "in the land of giants." At 295 pounds, he was the biggest defensive lineman at the game, which was full of All-Americans and first-round NFL draft picks.

"After the first practice, I thought, 'I could play in this league. I could do what these guys are doing.' For me, the perception has to change in Canada. As soon as you hold your players to a higher standard, they reach that standard. There were probably four or five guys that I played with from the Bisons who, without question, could have played in the NFL. Some of the guys I've talked to, their aspirations were set on the CFL and the NFL seemed to be something out of this world," he said.

The Israel Idonije Foundation put on a similar camp last week in Chicago, where it also runs an after-school program. It also recently adopted a village of 1,700 people in Ghana, where it built a medical clinic.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2013 A5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw video: Polar bear cubs Star and Blizzard lunch on fish heads

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you in favour of the Harper government's new 'family tax cut'?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google