Former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije returns for all-star football camp in Winnipeg

Former Chicago Bear player Israel Idonije returned on Saturday for the all-star football camp in Winnipeg.

The game is in partnership with the University of Manitoba football organization and it was held at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation’s indoor soccer complex after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really special to have these kids out today,” Idonije said.

During the one-day camp, he explained, the kids get to play football, connect with other kids, and learn that people in the community love them and care about them. “It’s just a great opportunity just to share, to connect. And that’s what community building is all about.”

The event welcomes all levels of players to learn the same offensive and defensive techniques taught to professional players, as well as the fundamentals of football.

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Idonije said sports can teach people valuable life lessons and skills. “You’ve got to get yourself up. You’ve got to drop a new game plan. You’ve got to keep working. You’ve got to have good teammates that have a good strategy.”

“You’ve got to be responsible, smart, you’ve got to study, you’ve got to learn. You’ve got to take an approach that’s positive,” he said. “Those are all the things that I’ve learned through sport that we hope our kids learn at camps like this.”

Idonijie played in the NFL for 11 years. He said training camps are hard and the season is hard, and it’s nice to be able to come out to do things like this which are fun.

Additionally, he said the camp has fostered some good football players. “Kids who have come to this camp have played football for the University of Manitoba, have played football for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

“To see these kids that were at this little camp go to become programs, go to become leaders in the community — it’s been so special.”

Idonjie went to the University of Manitoba and he said it’s a blessing to be back representing the province after all his years in the U.S.

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