Idonije at training camp, 2008
No. 71 Chicago Bears
|Date of birth:November 17, 1980|
|Place of birth: Lagos, Nigeria|
|CFL Draft: 2003 / Round: 2 / Pick: 17|
|Undrafted in 2003|
|Debuted in 2004 for the Chicago Bears|
|Roster status: Active|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2013
Idonije was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Manitoba. A draft pick of the now defunct Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League, for whom he never played, Idonije spent the start 2003 season on the Cleveland Browns' practice squad prior to his release in September. He was subsequently signed to the Bears' practice squad for the final six weeks of the season.
Idonije also played for the Detroit Lions.
Idonije was born in Lagos, Nigeria and immigrated with his family to Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, when he was four years old. He attended Vincent Massey High School in Brandon and, though he had never played football and was reluctant, coach Kevin Grindey convinced him to play when the school restarted its Canadian football program in 1997, when Idonije was a senior in high school. He went on to play CIS football for the Manitoba Bisons. During this time he worked as a daycare teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba, played in the East-West Shrine Game, and was drafted 17th overall by the Ottawa Renegades in the 2003 CFL Draft. At Manitoba from 2000–02, Idonije recorded 16 sacks which stands fourth all-time in Bison history. He helped lead the Bison to the 2001 Vanier Cup where Manitoba was defeated by the Saint Mary's Huskies. In 2002, Idonije was named 2002 Manitoba Male Athlete of the Year. His goal, however, was to play in the National Football League.
Idonije was not invited to the NFL Combine, but appeared on his own to distribute tapes of his years at University of Manitoba. Nine NFL team scouts were originally scheduled to attend a subsequent workout in Manitoba, but only one team The Cleveland Browns ended up attending due to the SARS outbreak concerns at the time. Idonije was eventually signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent, and put on Cleveland's practice squad.
As a rookie in 2003, Idonije was signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent, and put on Cleveland's practice squad. He was waived by the Browns midway through the season.
Idonije was obtained by the Chicago Bears as a practice squad player late in the 2003 season and made the final roster the following year. Idonije is known for his versatility, including his ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end and his blocked kicks. Idonije also played gunner on the punt coverage team.
In 2006, the Idonije became a restricted free agent and the Buffalo Bills attempted to sign him, but the Bears retained him by matching their offer. During the 2007 NFL Season, Idonije had three consecutive games with a blocked field goal or extra point. In 2008, Idonije set career highs in sacks (3.5), tackles (22), and passes defensed (6). In May 2009, signed a two-year, $7 million contract extension with the Bears. On December 30, 2009 Idonije was placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury.
With the drafting of Shea McClellin in 2012, Idonije was moved to defensive tackle. In the second game of the preseason against the Washington Redskins, Idonije recorded 2½ sacks on rookie and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Idonije would once again record 2½ sacks in week three against the St. Louis Rams. Idonije ended the season with 40 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble, and he was later named to the USA Today All-Joe Team.
Second stint with Bears
On March 18, 2014, Idonije signed a one-year deal to return to the Bears.
Idonije revealed his new comic, The Protectors, at its soft launch during the New York Comic Con in October 2012. He came up with the idea at the Chicago Bears training camp in 2007. The Protectors, set in the future, is based around a group of super athletes who learn they are blessed with super powers that help protect humanity. Idonije brought on writer Ron Marz and artist Bart Sears to complete the project. Idonije will be publishing the comic through the publishing company he founded, Athleta Comics. Athleta Comics is part of Athleta Entertainment.
The Protectors issue #0 made its debut at C2E2 in Chicago, April 26–28, 2013. Issue #1 is scheduled to come out in September 2013.
The Israel Idonije Foundation
Idonije established the The Israel Idonije Foundation in 2007. It is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Its mission statement reads: "The Israel Idonije Foundation is committed to impacting underserved communities by providing programs focused on social and emotional life skills." It serves communities in Chicago, Winnipeg and West Africa - all the places Idonije has called home. The Israel Idonije Foundation offers four core programs:
- Shop With a Cop - an annual holiday shopping program designed to foster better relationships between youth and law enforcement
- All-Star Football and Cheerleading Camps - an annual program that provides a free one-day camp to 250+ youth where they receive training in drills, conditioning and other techniques from athletes and coaches.
- IZZYz KIDz After-School Program - a daily program that provides a safe, constructive environment for youth.
- Africa Project - an annual humanitarian trip to West Africa to provide medical services and a youth sports empowerment program.
On June 10, 2013, Idonije was awarded the "Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy" by All Sports United, which recognizes one athlete per year that demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service. The Humanitarian Award carries with it a $100,000 media grant thru PVBLIC foundation.
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