Chicago Bears defensive player Israel Idonije is one of three finalists up for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes not only on-field performance, but also off-field contributions to the community.
On the field, the Nigerian-Canadian Idonije is tied for team lead in sacks and forced fumbles, tied for second in quarterback pressures and is second on the team in tackles.
Off the field, he is personally involved in the Israel Idonije Foundation (IIF), which he cereated in 2007. Aside from being physically active in the Foundation, he has contributed more than $300,000 to the Foundation, as well as other in-kind contributions. He also started the the First Down Atttendance Program, serving more than 600 economically disadvantaged students in five schools in Chicago and Manitoba, Canada. The program is designed to encourage students to sustain regular attendance, strive for high achevement in school and promote good citizenship. The program has been responisble for a regular attendance increase of at least 8 percent in participating schools.
The C.A.R.E. Africa program (Caring, Advancing, Restoring and Educating), an arm of the IIF, promotes education on an international front, focusing on education, self-preservation, humanitarianism, leadership and awareness.
Idonije, a two-time NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, and has been the Bears spokesman for the United Way LIVE UNITED campaign the past two years.
The two other finalists are Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders, and Madieu Williams of the Minnesota Vikings. The winner will be announced live on FOX Feb. 6, prior to the start of Super Bowl XLV.