Israel Idonije is the first-ever Manitoba Bisons football player to have his number retired. The Bisons made the announcement at a dinner on Saturday night.
“Tonight Bison Football is proud and honored to retire #70, the jersey worn by Bison great and NFL veteran, Israel Idonije. As a player, Israel was an often unstoppable and always relentless defensive lineman. But more importantly, he was a great teammate,” Bison football head coach Brian Dobie said in a media release. “Off the field, Israel has continually represented the sport of football as a humanitarian, giving back to his communities in Winnipeg, Chicago and Nigeria. He has been recognized as such by being a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.”
While with the Bisons, Idonije was the team’s MVP in 2002 and a two time Canada West All-Star in 2001 and 2002. His 16 career sacks are the third most in the team’s history.
After 5 years at the University of Manitoba, one as a redshirt, Idonije became the first Bison to make it onto a NFL team roster. He signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2003 before moving on the Chicago Bears late in 2003. He made the final NFL roster with the Bears in 2004 and played until 2012 before moving to the Detroit Lions in 2013 season.
Over his 11 year career, Idonije played in 149 career NFL games. He started 50 of those contests with 283 total tackles, 29 sacks, 6 fumble recoveries and 8 blocked kicks plus 1 TD on a fumble recovery.
The recognition adds to a long list of accolades for Idonije. Among them he was inducted into the Order of Manitoba in 2014 and accepted a key to his hometown of Brandon in 2011.
A formal on-field presentation of the jersey retirement will take place at a Bison Football game in the future.