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Manitoba NFLer Idonije calls it a career

Israel Idonije greets a group of kids during his annual all-star football camp in Winnipeg. Idonije has decided to retire from football after 11 seasons in the NFL.


Israel Idonije greets a group of kids during his annual all-star football camp in Winnipeg. Idonije has decided to retire from football after 11 seasons in the NFL.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/4/2015 (1893 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The only Manitoban to ever play in the NFL has hung up his cleats.

Israel Idonije, after overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to enjoy an illustrious 11-year career in the big show as a defensive end, has decided to step away from the field. He is now going to dedicate himself to his many business and philanthropic endeavours.

"We’re closing the football chapter of my life. It was an incredible 11 years in the NFL, 10 with the (Chicago) Bears and one with the (Detroit) Lions," he said. "When you factor in five years at the University of Manitoba, it’s been great being a part of this form of sport. Now, I’m excited to enter this next chapter, doing a lot of entrepreneurial and community things and just having fun."

Idonije was born in Nigeria before moving with his family to Brandon when he was four years old. He starred at the University of Manitoba, after only one year of high school football at Brandon’s Vincent Massey.

Idonije was with the New York Giants last year during training camp and the pre-season, and when he didn’t crack the starting roster, he was asked to do some analysis on TSN on Sundays in Toronto.

"That was a great opportunity. I was thankful to be able to sit around with the guys and talk football and do what I’ve been doing over my career. That’s watching film, breaking down film and breaking down guys and analyzing what makes things work and what guys need to work on during the game," he said.

Idonije is the creator and driving force behind The Protectors comic book series, a story about a team of athletes by day who protect humanity from evil by night.

He was in Chicago last weekend at the C2E2 conference to launch the latest Protectors story as a "motion book" in conjunction with Madefire, a California-based interactive story telling company.

"If you have a smartphone, make sure you download the Madefire app. If you don’t have a smartphone, it’s time to get one. It’s 2015," he said.

Idonije will return to Winnipeg in June to run his annual All-Star Football Camp for underprivileged kids and he’s getting ready for his annual humanitarian trip to the African country of Ghana this summer, too.

If that wasn’t enough, he is also heavily involved in the Israel Idonije Foundation, which aims to help underprivileged kids become positive influences in their communities, and he’s tackling healthcare through a medical question-and-answer platform called "Ask The Doctor," where people from around the world can ask a network of doctors health-related questions for free.

To say Idonije’s NFL career was improbable is seriously understating the matter. Not only did he not start playing football until he was a senior in high school, he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine after a stellar Canadian college career, either. He appeared at the combine on his own to distribute tapes of his years at the U of M. Nine different team’s scouts had planned to attend a subsequent workout in Winnipeg but only one, the Cleveland Browns, flew up due to concerns about the SARS outbreak at the time.

Idonije started his professional career on the Browns’ practice squad in 2003 but was released part way through the season. He was subsequently picked up by the Bears and made their roster the following year.

Idonije finished his career with 283 tackles, 29 sacks, six forced fumbles and one touchdown. He played in one Super Bowl game in the 2006 season, where the Bears lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17.



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The Protectors chronicles a group of athletes who find out they also have superpowers and set about trying to save the world. (Courtesy of Athlitacomics)
MB-raised NFL star dreams up graphic novel series
Israel Idonije, who lives in Chicago but grew up in Brandon after his parents emigrated from Nigeria, told the Free Press he's loved comic books since he was a kid. (Nam Y. Huh / The Canadian Press files)
Idonije said he wanted to create a graphic novel with the underlying message that everyone can contribute to positive change in the world.  (Courtesy of Athlitacomics)
Seen at left tackling Arizona Cardinals quarterback Brian Hoyer during a 2012 NFL game, Israel Idonije (#71) said he hopes the graphic novels will draw kids into reading and help them discover their true gifts. (Rick Scuteri / The Associated Press files)
Israel Idonije joined forces with veteran comic-book writers and artists to bring The Protectors to life. ( Courtesy of Athlitacomics)
Add creating comic books to the long list of Israel Idonjie's extracurricular activities. When he's not playing for the Chicago Bears, Idonjie has been known to get involved in charity work — even if that means raising money for the Special Olympics by jumping into Lake Michigan in March with late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon.
 (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune / Tribune Media MCT files)
Israel Idonije, left, said one of The Protectors characters — a bearded, bald defensive end from Africa — is not based on him. (Photo Illustration)

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Updated on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 7:41 PM CDT: Adds links.

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