CHICAGO (CBS) – The game against the Bills will be the first regular season contest the Bears have played outside the United States in their 90-year history.
Many Bears have never been north of the border, but for Israel Idonije, he never thought this would happen to him: playing professional football in his home country. CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports.
Growing up in Canada, Israel Idonije played plenty of hockey, but basketball was his sport and he wanted to be like: “Oh man, Michael Jordan. I loved the Bulls as a kid, that was my team,” said Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije.
But it was his mom who steered him into football which wasn’t common in his hometown of Brandon, Manitoba. She drove him two and a half hours away for his first real football tryout when he was 17.
“I went out and made the team, even though I didn’t want to be there,” said Idonije. “She said, ‘this a door that’s open and we’re going to walk through it. If it works out, great. If not, nothing lost.’ She pushed me through the door and the rest is history.”
But it wasn’t an easy ride after that. He went on to to play at the University of Manitoba but few NFL teams were interested in going to Canada to scout him. So he went on his own to the NFL combine and passed out VHS highlight tapes. No luck, until the Browns stumbled upon in 2002.
“A scout from the Cleveland Browns came to look at a kicker at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” said Idonije. “They suggested he go look at this big kid at the University of Manitoba. He sat in his car freezing throughout practice. I ended up going to Cleveland for a little bit.”
He came to Chicago after that, and now eight years later, the Canadian kid who had no interest in football is having his best season as a Bear.
Israel Idonije says playing an NFL game north of the border is truly a dream come true for him.