National Football League free agent defensive lineman Israel Idonije returned to Winnipeg on Saturday to play a little football with his “Kidz.”
Idonije, who is about to start his 11th season in the National Football League even though he doesn’t have a team yet, just wanted to assure everyone when he arrioved on Saturday that he will have an announcement soon. While his old team, the Chicago Bears haven’t showed a lot of interest in bringing him back, both the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans have been quite interested in acquiring his services.
“Free agency is about patience,” he said with a smile. “We’ll get something done in the next little while.”
The Annual Izzy Idonije Kidz Camp was held at the soccer complex at the University of Manitoba and more than 150 young football players were shown the Idonije Way thanks to the help of a number of University Manitoba Bisons stars, a group of volunteers, the Israel Idonije Foundation staff members and the big defensive tackle himself.
“It’s our seventh annual and we’re as excited as we always are,” said Idonije on Saturday afternoon. “We do two of these every year. We have about 200-250 in Chicago and around 150 here in Winnipeg. It’s for children 8-14 from underserved communities who will get to spend a day laughing, learning football skills and just running around playing games and being kids.
“As you know, I come from a family of service, my mom and my dad, and I want to use my platform as an NFL player to contribute to a child’s social and emotional development in a way that every child knows who they are, they have a plan for their lives, they know how they fit into the community and they make the right decisions. Those are the core principles of what we try to achieve in our organization.”
When Idonije comes to town to put on his camp, he’s not just one of those guys who shows up, says a few words and heads back to the airport. He’s a hands on coach who would rather be giving his time to youth than hanging out with the celebrities who seem to follow around NFL players.
“He’s really an amazing guy,” said Don Kozun, the treasurer and financial manager of the Israel Idonije Foundation. “He’s one of those guys who tries to come up with something new every day. This is the kind of guy he is: During his down time at training camp, he wrote a story. He then went out and got help from Ron Marz and Bart Sears. (Marz is a well-known comic book writer who is best known in the industry for his work with Silver Surfer and Green Lantern. Sears, meanwhile, is an illustrator, who has done Justice League Europe and X-O Manowar). Together, they came up with the Protectors and the comic book was released at the C2E2 Comic Convention in Chicago.”
The leg work for Saturday’s camp was done by Liz Pham who worked tirelessly to make everything go smoothly. Halleemah Nash, the CEO of the Israel Idonije Foundation, handled the media and Bisons stars including Evan Gill and David Onyemata and head coach Brian Dobie helped conduct the camp.