Israel Idonije (left) makes a tackle against his former team, the Chicago Bears. Idonije says he has been preparing for life after football through a series of business ventures and charities. Photo courtesy of Israel Idonije

Christian NFLer readies for life after football

Multiple business ventures provide valuable ministry resources

DETROIT, MI—When he’s not serving up tackles for the Detroit Lions, a Manitoba-raised football player is helping churches serve the Lord’s Supper.

Israel Idonije, a defensive lineman for the National Football League team, owns and operates Blessed Communion, a business that produces individually sealed, pre-filled communion cups, each with a single wafer. The goal is to take the stress out of preparing for communion by providing an efficient product for small or large congregations, faith-based schools, mission trips or wherever believers want to observe communion.

Now in his 11th NFL season, Idonije says he bought the business in 2009 with his retirement from football in mind.

“I might play one more year and that would be it … [so] it’s important to start preparing for life after football,” the 33-year-old says by phone from Detroit after a team meeting. “I saw an opportunity there not only to provide a critical need for the Christian community, but also create a successful business I could monetize and get involved with the community.”

In addition to Blessed Communion, Idonije also operates a real estate company, an entertainment company and 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.

Idonije was born in Nigeria and immigrated with his family to Brandon, Manitoba when he was four years old. His parents were missionaries, and he says his faith—and giving back to the community—have always been important to him.

“Ultimately, the reason I am where I am today is because I had people’s support and I had people ... give and share with [my family] and uplift us in hard times,” he says. “If not for that support, who knows where we would be as a family and where I would be.”

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Detroit Lions lineman Israel Idonije says his faith—and giving back to the community—have always been important to him. Photo courtesy of Israel Idonije.
“I think it’s part of my responsibility to share and do what I can with what I have to inspire, to uplift and motivate the lives that I can reach,” he adds. “If one life is changed, if one life is touched, if one life is inspired, then at the end of it all, it’s been worth it.”

Last July, Idonije was honoured at the White House for his efforts when he was presented with a Daily Point of Light Award, which recognizes individuals who are sparking change and working to improve the world around them.

Idonije says the platform the NFL provides him to influence and effect change is one of the things he likes best about playing football.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is being rooted in a relationship with God, he says, adding that through both trials and triumphs, he turns to Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

“My destiny is based on God’s plan for me, and that’s one of a successful future and good things,” Idonije says. “I have to make sure I’m focused and maintain my belief and my faith, and He’ll never fail me.”

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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.