VALPARAISO | They do things a little differently north of the border.
"But football is still football," Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije said when discussing the similarities between the National Football League and the Canadian Football League. "Obviously, it's a lot more pass oriented, and more receivers can get a running start before the snap. It's still a high-level pro league.
"You can ask players like (Heisman Trophy winner) Ricky Williams and Adam 'PacMan' Jones who've played there. It isn't like you can play five years in the NFL and then go to Canada and expect to dominate.
Idonije was in the region Saturday for an appearance during the open house of St. Mary Medical Center's new Valparaiso Health Center.
"There's a lot of talent in the CFL," Idonije said. "It just doesn't have the marketing base of the NFL."
A native of Nigeria who moved to Manitoba, Canada, with his family when he was a toddler, Idonije never played in the CFL, though he was a first-round draft pick of the league's now-defunct Ottawa Renegades. After he made the Cleveland Browns' practice squad in 2003, the Bears picked him up and he's been with the team for the following nine seasons.
Idonije, who recently moved to defensive tackle from defensive end, had 7.5 sacks last season, second behind Julius Peppers (11.0) for team honors. He has 28.5 sacks during his career, and led the league three-straight seasons (2005, 2006 and 2007) in blocked punts/kicks.
In 2009, Idonije was the Bears' team-chosen recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
Idonije has high hopes for next season with new head coach Marc Trestman.
"The things he did with the Montreal Alouettes is impressive," Idonije said of Trestman's back-to-back CFL Grey Cup championships in 2009 and 2010. "He's going to bring a more offensive-minded culture to our team. We already have solid special teams, and our defense -- despite all the stuff we heard last offseason about us being too old -- ended up nearly setting a league record in creating turnovers.
"The change should bring more value to the team if we can get a good offensive and defensive dance going."
Nearly 1,500 fans attended the open house as a line of people formed around the building and the center's parking lot was filled beyond capacity. Legendary disc jockey Dick Biondi also was present while broadcasting his show live on 94.7/WLS-FM from the site.
The 55,000 square-feet center will officially open on Feb. 4.
"We're here to better serve the health care needs of the community," St. Mary Medical Center CEO Janice Ryba said. "We have daily out-patient and urgent care services, we have MRI, CT, X-ray and ultrasound diagnostic imagine ... we offer 3D mammograms."
The center also offers weight loss and physical therapy services, and has a staff of physicians who specialize in functional medicine, internal medicine, podiatry, neurology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, urology, ear/nose/throat ailments, general surgery and cardiology.