Making sure football isn't sole identity

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Football's sometimes brutal, long-term physical effects were chronicled in Sun Media's recent series, Fame's Dark Shadows.

But so was another hazard that confronts so many pro athletes: an identity crisis after retirement.

That's one area Brandon's Izzy Idonije appears to have covered.

"When your career's done, then who are you? What's your identity? I don't worry about that," Idonije said. "I do everything I can to make sure that my sole identity isn't football When I'm done football I have other things that I'll do."

He's doing them, already.

The Chicago Bears defensive lineman is in town for a series of appearances on behalf of his charitable foundation.

Earlier this week, Idonije took 34 kids from Sister MacNamara School out for a movie and ice cream, their reward for excellent classroom attendance.

Today and next week, he'll reward a second group of kids, run phys-ed classes at the core area school, meet with Special Olympics athletes at a Manitoba Moose game and visit kids at the Health Sciences Centre Burn Unit.

Foundation

He's also begun planning a future gala fundraiser, the money earmarked to continue his foundation's work long after he's done playing football.

Similar community service work in Chicago, along with a goodwill mission to Iraq and visits to his native Nigeria, earned him an NFL award for community service last year.

The son of a Brandon street minister, the work comes naturally for Idonije.

Growing up, he'd help his parents feed those who were down and out. Later he volunteered at the Y, and by the time he was with the U of M Bisons he was volunteering at a Winnipeg day care. He still makes the occasional surprise visit there.

The 28-year-old has had various off-field business interests, too, real estate and a mortgage company among them.

You get the impression his playing days -- he's been a full-time player for five years -- are simply a launching pad to his real mission in life.

"Football's just a piece of the puzzle for me," Idonije said.


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