DE Israel Idonije came into the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2003 with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns put Idonije on the practice squad, but Idonije was released midway through the season. The Bears scooped Idonije up late that season.
The 6’6″Idonije was used at defensive end, defensive tackle, and on special teams. In Idonije’s first three seasons he appeared in 39 games, making 53 tackles and two sacks.
In 2007, Idonije made 28 tackles in 16 games and also did something very special. That season Idonije blocked a field goal attempt or extra point attempt in three straight games. Idonije was known from that point on for his ability to block kicks.
In 2008, Idonije made 24 tackles, 3.5 sacks and deflected six passes. Last season, Idonije appeared in 15 games making 18 tackles and two sacks.
The 29 year old Idonije has started seven games in his six-year career with the Bears.
I got the chance to speak to Israel Idonije this week and I asked him some questions about how he got so good at blocking kicks, what he has to do to earn a starting spot on the roster and when his foundation started.
Q: Was it always your dream to play in the NFL?
A: I actually wanted to play in the NBA. When I was 13, I wrote in my journal that I was going to play for the Chicago Bulls.
Q: How different is it playing for the Bears than the University of Manitoba?
A: Playing in the NFL is business.
Q: What is your pregame ritual?
A: I listen to my Michael Jackson mix and eat a chocolate chip cookie.
Q: How many times a week during the season do you work out? What does your work out consist of?
A: During the season I work out every day and weight train three days a week.
Q: What kind of drills do the defensive linemen get put through?
A: The defensive linemen work on a lot of repetition. We work on reaction.
Q: I know your in the competition at the defensive end position with Mark Anderson and Henry Melton. How do you deal with competition?
A: I know my job and focus on what I can control. I am in the best shape I can be in-it will work itself out.
Q: How different is defensive tackle than defensive end? Is it tough dropping weight and gaining weight to play the different positions?
A: At defensive tackle the play develops quicker. Dropping weight is easy, it just takes discipline.
Q: How do you block so many field goals? Do you enjoy it?
A: I love it. Drive the line back and get your hand up. There’s an element of luck.
Q: What do you think you have to do to win the starting defensive end position across from newly acquired Julius Peppers?
A: I have to know the position and be in great shape. Those two components will allow me to make a lot of plays. Making plays is the key to earning the job.
Q: Has Julius Peppers taught you anything you didn’t know?
A: Just watching him rush passer. I am learning a new way of attacking the offensive line.
Q: What is your ultimate goal that you want to get from the NFL?
A: The NFL has been an incredible platform and has provided me so many opportunities. I am entering my eighth season and hope to continue to improve.
Q: Who is your role model? Who is the person who helped you get to this point?
A: My mother. She’s a very motivational person. There were times I wanted to quit and move on and she always helped me focus and make the right decision.
Q: What is your favorite food? Where do you go to eat in Chicago?
A: My favorite is the I-train special at Park 52. They donate a portion of each sale to my Foundation. Its delicious fried catfish. There are a lot of places I love, but at the top of that list is Park 52. Some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Q: What is favorite vacation spot?
Q: Do your friends and family ever come to the games?
A: I have 50 IZZYz KIDz at every home game from our First Down Attendance program. They are usually cheering in the North End Zone. My family is able to make it to some of the games as well.
Q: What is your favorite part of football?
A: The competition and winning. I LOVE TO WIN.
Q: Who are your closest friends on the team or in the NFL?
A: The d-line is really close. We are together every day. Tommie Harris and I really close.
Q: How did the Israel Idonije Foundation start?
A: I grew up in a missionary household. Service is something I have always been a part of and I am thankful for the opportunity to share with others.
Q: What exactly does your foundation do?
A: We work with economically-disadvantaged children and families in Chicago, Canada and Africa. We have three main programs, IZZYz KIDZ, All-Star Football and Cheer Camp and C.A.R.E. Africa.
Q: How many years has it been around?
A: I started the IZZYz KIDz programs in 2007, and we received our 501(c)3 charitable status in 2008.
Q: Thanks Israel, have a good season.
A: Thank you.