Idonije runs football clinic in 'Peg

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Kross Ballantyne isn’t much of a football fan, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t learn a few things from Israel Idonije.

Ballantyne, a 12-year-old who attends Shaughnessy Park School, was one of approximately 150 kids from across Manitoba who took part in the fifth annual Israel Idonije NFL All-Star Camp on Saturday at Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex.

It was just another example of the Chicago Bears defensive end giving back to his community, which is why the 30-year-old was one of three nominees for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award last season.

“This is where I’m from,” Idonije said. “Right where we’re standing at the University of Manitoba, this is where I started. I was 17 when I first came to the U of M and had a lot of people kind of pour into my life and help me get to where I needed to be and send me positive messages.

“So it’s just an opportunity to do the same, to come out here and spend time with these great kids and send a message that hey, this is where I started and there’s no reason why they can’t be successful.”

Ballantyne and the rest of the campers, who were between the ages of 10 and 12, were put through the paces by the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Brandon native on Saturday along with several members of the U of M Bisons football team.

“Kicking, catching, running with the ball, tackling, throwing, snapping and punting” were just a few of the football activities Ballantyne learned, but he will take away more than that.

“Always give 110% every time we play sports and do school stuff,” said Ballantyne, who was born in The Pas.

Idonije’s message is simple every time he’s around young people, whether he’s in Winnipeg or Chicago.

“The only reason I was able to have so much success was because I had a lot of people working with me nonstop behind the scenes, coaching me up, giving me real good information and advice,” he said. “That’s a good environment for growth.”

And when not guiding today’s youth, Idonije continues to prepare for his ninth NFL season even though the lockout is dragging into its fourth month.

“It’s going to get solved,” Idonije said. “There’s too much at risk. It’s a very successful business. They’re not going to risk the momentum the business has.”


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