Anything is possible

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

It was one of those headlines that made you sit up and go, "Huh?"

Manitoba's only NFL player, a 6-foot-6 Mr. Nice Guy from Brandon named Izzy Idonije, hooking up with uber-agent Drew Rosenhaus?

The same Drew Rosenhaus known for prying every last dollar from every last team?

The same Drew Rosenhaus who represents, protects and generally coddles NFL problem child Terrell Owens, and who replaced "no comment" with "next question" as the standard response for putting off reporters?

You may as well mix oil and water putting him with someone like Idonije, who's spent much of the last two weeks doing community work in Winnipeg's core area.

Idonije tells inner city kids about the benefits of education, Rosenhaus provides a perfect example of how to get rich without it.

Idonije spends an afternoon with sick kids at the Children's Hospital, and keeps it quiet from most of the local media, Rosenhaus makes sure the media knows all about the latest demands from his spoiled brats.

And, yet, a few weeks back we got word the former U of M Bison had signed a deal with Rosenhaus, in blood, at the crossroads, we presume.

Say it isn't so, Izzy.

"Drew is actually a great agent," Idonije was saying yesterday. "Just meeting him, talking to him, getting a firsthand knowledge of his ethics, and how he operates as an agent and a man, he's a quality guy."

Idonije may have just made history, uttering his agent's name and the words "quality and ethics" in the same sentence. Then again, maybe that's just the impression from the general public's point of view.

Seems if you're a football player, Drew's your man.

"He's a protector of these guys, their contracts, and he does that religiously," Idonije said. "He gets pigeonholed with a bad rep because he puts his foot down and says, 'Hey, you're not giving this guy what he deserves.' He genuinely cares about his guys."

And no, he's not worried about his spotless reputation being sullied by the company he's keeping.

"Drew's reputation isn't Israel Idonije's reputation. That's Drew Rosenhaus. He does what he does. I am who I am."

Who Idonije is, is the anti-T.O., a loyal foot soldier who'll do whatever his team wants him to do, whether it's put on 30 pounds to play on the inside of the D-line, or shed same to move back outside.

If Idonije, well on his way from 306 to 270 pounds, keeps as busy all off-season as he is right now, he may resemble a wide receiver by Week 1.

Aside from the hospital visit, he's spent several days with kids at Sister MacNamara School, where he's implimented an incentive program for them to attend classes. One Grade 6 student cut her absent days down from 30 a year ago to half a day this year. All because of Izzy.

Yesterday he was principal for a day, going from classroom to classroom to explain how a kid born in Nigeria and raised in Brandon can make it to the NFL, and how that proves anything is possible if you work hard.

The only break he's taking from this two-week whirlwind is to fly to Oklahoma for a news conference to announce his latest goodwill mission to Africa.

Idonije and fellow NFLer Tommie Harris have helped marshall the support of a dozen doctors, who've spent $15,000 of their own money, each, to collect medicine to take to some of the poorest areas of Nigeria.

"We're going to have five days of medical clinics in rural areas where people just don't have medical help," Idonije said. He leaves for Africa later this month -- after a Bears mini-camp.

Last year his group dug wells for three villages that didn't have clean water.

Seems the work of the Israel Idonije Foundation just keeps getting bigger and better.

Hey, the guy can have the devil himself as an agent, if he keeps this up.

As long as he doesn't start talking like an agent.

"I won't be starting to say, 'Next question, next question,' " Idonije promised.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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