Idonije wants more

Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije accepted an honorary citizenship at Winnipeg City Hall...

Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije accepted an honorary citizenship at Winnipeg City Hall yesterday. (Sun File/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

The younger ones wanted his autograph, the older ones simply a chance to shake his hand and the real old ones, specifically a city councilor or two, asked to have their pictures taken with him.

Kids of all ages flocked to get close to massive Izzy Idonije yesterday, as Manitoba's only NFL player accepted an honorary citizenship at Winnipeg City Hall.

"It's unbelievable," Idonije said after a brief ceremony. "You can't really put it into words. When I walked up these stairs, to see everybody standing here and clapping ... this city's really embraced me. I'm so appreciative of that."

Idonije's story continues to become more remarkable each year.

Super Bowl

From nine-man football in Brandon to the U of M Bisons, from an NFL practice roster to a spot in the lineup of the Chicago Bears, and all the way to the Super Bowl, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive lineman just keeps raising the bar.

He aims to lift it higher, yet. The next step: becoming a full-time starter on the Bears defence.

"I'm never one to be complacent," Idonije said. "I'm not happy with where I'm at. I want to be better. I want to be the guy they call on in a pinch. At the U of M, in my last two years there, in a pinch I felt like I could go in a game and I could make a difference. I don't feel that yet in the NFL. And that's what drives me."

Idonije, 26, played in 13 games last season, his third in the NFL. He added a couple of big plays in the playoffs, suggesting he might be ready to take the next step.

"The previous year I was able to come down the field and make a tackle on special teams, but that's not the same as getting in there and almost blocking a punt, making a sack, having everybody just erupt. That feeling you can't replace."

Despite his success, Idonije loves being accessible to kids, which was obvious yesterday. Thanks to a recent experience in Chicago, he knows exactly how they felt, too.

A huge basketball fan growing up, Idonije met Chicago legend Michael Jordan for the first time.

"I'm still wide-eyed," Idonije said. "I was sitting over there, looking at him, like, 'Man, that's Michael Jordan.' I went up to say 'hi'. I said, 'Hey, what's up.' I gave him a handshake, said, 'Hey Mr. Jordan, how you doin? I've got a lot of respect for you, and I just wanted to come say, 'Hi'. ' The guy is literally an icon.

"He basically has a wall of security around him. I just wanted to introduce myself and say, 'Hi'. As a kid, that was my idol. I had pictures of him covering all my walls. I was excited about that."

Yesterday, he was on the other end of it. Without the wall of security.

He wouldn't have had it any other way.


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