In May, NFL player Israel Idonije was named to the Order of Manitoba. Prince Charles was on hand to present Idonije with a certificate related to the honour. Credit: Tracey Goncalves

Christian NFLer named to the Order of Manitoba

WINNIPEG, MB—Israel Idonije doesn’t win football games on his own, and he says he doesn’t earn awards or honours on his own, either.

In May, the National Football League defensive lineman—who was born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised in Brandon, Manitoba—was named to the Order of Manitoba. It’s the province’s highest honour, awarded each year to individuals who excel in their field and have made a positive contribution to society.

“It’s one of those moments you relish and cherish and that you’re thankful for,” Idonije told ChristianWeek in June.

The 33-year-old’s off-the-field endeavours include the Israel Idonije Foundation (IIF), a charitable organization that serves youth in West Africa, Winnipeg and Chicago through football instruction, after-school programs, medical care and community development.

“I accept those kind of awards on behalf of my (IFF) team,” he adds. “The work we do in Winnipeg, in Chicago, even in Africa, is due to the incredible volunteers and staff who care about people.”

In June, Idonije also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba, where he played football before joining the NFL.

“Being able to go back there and speak to the graduating students, and talk about what I felt were my keys to having success on the field and off the field… was a special moment.”

Key to his success, he says, is his Christian faith. While Idonije’s future in the NFL remains uncertain after the Chicago Bears released him from their roster in June, he says his life is about more than making tackles and earning money.

“At the end of the day, all the money (we make) will be gone,” he says. “What will remain is the work we’ve done and the lives we’ve touched.”

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if someone hadn’t added value to my life,” he adds. “We’re trying to be that for someone else in the same way.”

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About the author


Special to ChristianWeek

Aaron Epp is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, Musical Routes columnist, and former Senior Correspondent for ChristianWeek.