Former NFL DL Israel Idonije nominated for U Sports Mitchell Family Alumni of the Year Award

Photo courtesy: University of Manitoba

New for 2021, the Mitchell Family Alumni of the Year Awards honours the long-time champions of the U Sports Athlete of the Year Program.

The honourable Lois and Doug Mitchell celebrate eight former varsity athletes who have become leaders in their communities, and recognize the continued contributions by each alumnus to their alma mater.

A Vanier Cup finalist in 2002, Israel Idonije took home the J.P. Metras Trophy as the Outstanding Down Lineman of the Year and was named a two-time first team All-Canadian.

The Brandon, MB, native later became one of 31 U Sports products to play in the NFL, suiting up for nine years (2004-2012) and appearing in a Super Bowl in 2006 with the Chicago Bears before spending his final season with the Detroit Lions.

While pursuing his professional football career, the psychology graduate founded the Israel Idonije Foundation in 2007. It’s an organization that combines sport with compassion to create a vehicle for inspiring underprivileged children in Winnipeg, in Chicago, and in West Africa, honouring his birth country of Nigeria.

Idnonije’s commitment to community service earned him several awards and recognitions, including a nomination for the NFL’s prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2010, receiving the All-Sports United Humanitarian Award for excellence in sports philanthropy, as well as being the Daily Point of Light honouree at a ceremony hosted by U.S. president Barack Obama, both in 2013.

“Israel is an example of the heights that are possible when a human focuses their mind, body and heart towards the betterment of themselves and others,” Gene Muller, director of athletics and recreation at Manitoba, said.

“His achievements on the field of play and in the communities that matter to him are hugely impressive and he continues to make a positive difference in the lives of many.”

On campus, Idonije became the first Bison to have his number retired and receive an Honourary Doctor of Laws in 2014. He was celebrated as a Canada West Hall of Fame inductee in 2019.

Recently, Idonije has served as central figure for the groundbreaking of the new Active Living Centre on campus, and also been a member of the University of Manitoba president’s campaign team for the school’s Front and Centre Capital campaign that has raised over $600 million.