School rooting for Bears, player Israel Idonije

January 21, 2011 5:21:10 PM PST
From the North Side to the South Side and every suburb for miles around, Bears fans of all ages are counting down to the kick-off of Sunday's Bears-Packers game.

Every student at an elementary school on Chicago's South Side is cheering for the Bears.

"I hope they stomp the Packers," said student Tyreshia Black.

These strong words are from the 14-year-old Tyreshia Black as she and her classmates join a city brimming with Chicago Bears pride.

It's been that way long before the team captured a victory to put them just one win away from going to the Super Bowl.

Now, the only thing standing between the Bears and a championship is the Green Bay Packers.

"See, I don't like the Packers because they're going against the Bears," said student Jurell Fredrick.

At Banneker Elementary School, orange and navy are the colors of the day and lunch menus have even been altered -- omitting any mention of "cheese."

"We gave them a choice. I can't say the word. We had pizza today so we're serving plain pizza today. We're not mentioning cheese today," said cafeteria manager LaQwan Flowers.

There is no doubt you are in Chicago Bear territory as most students and staff here sport the number of their favorite player Israel Idonije, or Izzy, as they like to call him.

"He has eight sacks leading the Bears with Julius Peppers," said student Gevontane Moragne. "He wants five sacks in the playoffs. I really hope he gets it."

Those here have a special relationship with Idonije.

Through his foundation Number 71, he has been a sponsor of the Englewood grade school for the last three years.

He not only spends time with the kids during his days off, but regularly takes them on educational field trips and to Bears games as a reward for having excellent grades and good attendance.

"Hey we're there for you. This is your opportunity now, and we are going to support you, just like he's been supporting us," said Banneker principal Verona Portis. "So, we are excited for him. The entire school, Banneker community is behind Mr. Israel Idonije and the Chicago Bears."

So regardless of what the odd-makers say or the actual outcome of Sunday's game, for Banneker Elementary School, the team has already won.

"Go Izzy!" said student Rashana Moret.