Bills up ante for Izzy

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

You'd think someone who played nine-man football at Kinsmen Stadium in Brandon would be bouncing off the walls after being guaranteed $1.8-million US to play in the NFL.

If Israel Idonije is feeling it, he's not showing it.

The man from humble football beginnings in the Wheat City is still being his same old humble self, even after signing a reported four-year, $8.2-million offer sheet with the Buffalo Bills over the weekend.

Buffalo's contract proposal came with a $1.8-million signing bonus, which means even if Idonije's current team, the Chicago Bears, matches it by Monday's deadline, the former University of Manitoba Bisons defensive tackle is getting that cash no matter what.

"It's good. I'm happy," Idonije said yesterday after a workout at Charleswood's Pro Fitness Training. "It guarantees my family's security, and I'm not really a lavish person, so I'll be smart with that money and put it to work, and I'm going to continue living how I've been living."

His unbelievable story just keeps getting more unbelievable, but Idonije has his feet planted firmly on the ground.

BLESSED

"I've been very blessed," said Idonije, who only started playing football with Brandon's Vincent Massey Vikings nine-man squad when he was in Grade 12. "It's been a great journey so far. To whom much is given, much is expected.

"Regardless of where I am, in Chicago or Buffalo, they're giving me a whole lot, so my focus is ... I want to play to the level beyond what they've paid me. That's what I'm focusing on, and that's what I'm ready to do."

The 25-year-old has spent the last two seasons as a backup defensive lineman and special teamer with the Bears, and now he's a restricted free agent.

Buffalo's contract offer works out to $2.05 million a season, and the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bears had offered him the league minimum of $712,000 per year.

The Bears have until Monday to match the Bills' offer and keep him. If they don't, Idonije will be shuffling off to Buffalo.

OBVIOUSLY A BIG FAN

The Bills' new defensive co-ordinator is Perry Fewell, who was the Bears' secondary coach last season. So it's obvious Fewell is a big fan of Idonije, who isn't really sure where he's headed.

"I'm 50-50 right now," he said. "(The Bears) might match it, they might not. I know they like me there, and I know I like it in Chicago.

"We'll see what happens."

Chicago's defence was one of the best in the NFL last season, and Idonije said the personnel on the D-line isn't expected to change at all.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is starting over after a dismal 2005 campaign.

"Buffalo's a great situation," he said. "They use the same defence we do in Chicago, and I have an opportunity to go in there and ... they're not guaranteeing me a starting spot, but I have an opportunity to go in there and earn a starting position.

"Nothing's guaranteed, but I have a great opportunity there. I've played the defence for two years, and it's a great situation for me."

Regardless of where he ends up, Idonije, who made approximately $230,000 the past two seasons, is about to be set for life. You won't see him blowing his nose with $100 bills, though.

"I'm going to buy my parents a few things, and I bought a house in Winnipeg I'm going to furnish and take care of," he said. "Apart from that, everything's going to be invested."

Besides, NFL money isn't guaranteed, and Idonije knows it. That's why he's working out like there's no tomorrow and has dropped his weight to a lean, mean 263 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame.

"It's a whole lot of money, and I'm excited," he said. "But now that business is done, so let's get back to work."


Videos

Photos