For Israel Idonije, coming home to Canada couldn't have come at a better time.
Rather than being buried on the depth chart as he has in years past, Idonije went into Sunday's contest in Toronto as a starter and this year's breakout player on defense for the Chicago Bears.
Coming into the season, Idonije wasn't even expected to start. Mark Anderson was expected to bounce back after a couple of disappointing years and the Bears obviously made a huge investment when they brought in Julius Peppers, leaving Idonije to fill the same role he had behind Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye in years past.
Born in Nigeria, Idonije moved to Canada at an early age, calling Manitoba home all the way through his college years.
He played football for the University of Manitoba and was signed to the Browns practice squad, before making his way over to the Bears practice squad during the 2003 season.
Since 2003, Idonije has seen action in at least 15 games for the Bears in four seasons. However, this season Idonije has emerged as a legitimate threat on a much-improved Bears defense.
He's already on pace for a career high in tackles, with 25 (his high is 28) and leads the team in sacks, with five.
Much of that success can be attributed to the Bears' acquisition of Peppers. Many have criticized Peppers for his low sack numbers, with just two, but it's been noted that his impact goes beyond the stat sheet.
Whenever Peppers is on the field, he takes up most of the attention of the opposing offensive line, which has freed up Idonije to wreak havoc in the backfield.
With the Bears facing quarterbacks with names like Brett Favre, Michael Vick and Tom Brady before the season is over, Idonije will certainly prove his worth to this Bears squad, if he hasn't already.
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