Ditka in the press booth during an NFL pre-season game
|Date of birth:October 18, 1939|
|Place of birth: Carnegie, Pennsylvania|
|NFL Draft: 1961 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5|
|AFL Draft: 1961 / Round: 1 / Pick: 8|
|Debuted in 1961 for the Chicago Bears|
|Last played in 1972 for the Dallas Cowboys|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Michael Keller Ditka (born Michael Dyczko; 18 October 1939) is a former American football player, coach, and television commentator. A member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames, he was the 1961 UPI NFL Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys. Sure-handed and tenacious running with the ball, he led the transformation of the position into today's modern offensive threat.
He was an NFL champion with the 1963 Bears, and is a three-time Super Bowl champion, playing on the Cowboy's VI and coaching on the XII winning teams and coaching the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX. He was named to both the NFL's 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
He and Tom Flores are the only two people to win an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach. Ditka is also the only individual in modern NFL history to win a championship with the same team as a player and a head coach. Ditka was the only person to participate in both of the last two Chicago Bears' championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.
- 1 Early life
- 2 College career
- 3 NFL
- 4 Other ventures
- 5 Personal life
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Ditka was born as Michael Dyczko in the Pittsburgh-area town of Carnegie, Pennsylvania on 18 October 1939. The oldest child of Charlotte (Keller) and Mike Ditka, Sr. he grew up in nearby Aliquippa with siblings Ashton, David, and Mary Ann. His father, a welder, was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania. The surname "Dyczko" was difficult to pronounce in his hometown, so the family name was changed to "Ditka." Ditka attended St. Titus School.
Under head coach Press Maravich, Ditka was a three-sport star at Aliquippa High School. Ditka hoped to escape his hometown's manufacturing jobs by attending college with a football scholarship. Planning to become a dentist, he was recruited by Notre Dame, Penn State, and University of Pittsburgh.
Ditka played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1958 until 1960, where he also became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was a three sport athlete at Pitt, also playing baseball and basketball. He started all three seasons, leading the team in receiving in each, and also served as the team's punter. A first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in his senior year, he is widely considered one of the best tight ends in college football history, and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968
The Chicago Bears drafted Ditka fifth overall in the 1961 NFL Draft, while the Houston Oilers drafted him eighth overall in the first round in the 1961 AFL Draft. He signed with the Bears and his presence was immediately felt. In his first season, Ditka had 58 receptions, introducing a new dimension to a tight end position that had previously been dedicated to blocking. He also scored 12 receiving touchdowns, which was the most by a Bears rookie. His success earned him Rookie of the Year honors. He continued to play for the Bears for the next five years, earning a Pro Bowl trip each season. He played on the 1963 NFL championship team. Many of the players from that team, including Ditka, were drafted by assistant coach George Allen, a future Hall of Famer, who was then in charge of the Bears drafts. During the season, against the Los Angeles Rams, Ditka tied Harlon Hill's franchise record for the most receiving touchdowns in a game with four. Ditka ranks first among tight ends and fourth in Bears history with 4,503 yards, fifth in both receptions (316) and touchdown catches (34).
Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys
Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967 where he spent two seasons, before being shipped off to the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. He spent four seasons with the Cowboys, highlighted by a touchdown reception in the Cowboys' 24–3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. He is the only Head Coach in the history of the Super Bowl to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl as a player.
Retiring after the 1972 season, Ditka was immediately hired as an assistant coach by Cowboys' head coach Tom Landry. Ditka spent nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Cowboys. During his tenure, the Cowboys made the playoffs eight times, won six division titles, three NFC Championships and a Super Bowl victory in 1977.
While working with the Cowboys, Ditka sent a letter to George Halas, his former head coach who was still owner of the Chicago Bears. In the letter Ditka said that he would like to come back to Chicago and be the head coach of the Bears "when he was ready". Meanwhile, the Cowboys continued to win games although they did not win another Super Bowl while Ditka was there. His last game with the Cowboys was the 1981 NFC Championship Game, where the team fell to the San Francisco 49ers.
After firing previous coach Neill Armstrong following the 1981 season, Halas decided to take Ditka up on his offer from several years earlier and hired him to become the team's head coach for 1982 campaign. Although the Bears had made the playoffs under Armstrong and his predecessor Jack Pardee, those were the only two winning seasons since Halas' retirement as coach and he was looking for a coach who would bring the Bears back to prominence. Shortly after his hiring, as recounted by Mike Singletary in 2006, Ditka called a team meeting. In the meeting he warned that the team would experience some turnover, but if they were all willing to work hard for him and stand with him, Ditka promised a trip to the Super Bowl within three seasons.
By his third season, Ditka led the Bears to the NFC Championship Game, where the Bears were shut out by the eventual Super Bowl-winning 49ers in San Francisco. The following year, Ditka's coaching career hit its pinnacle on January 26, 1986, with a 46–10 trouncing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ditka has stated that one of his biggest regrets in life was not letting Walter Payton score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, instead opting for Jim McMahon to run it in twice and rookie defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry to run it in once.
Football commentators widely regard the 1985 Bears defense as one of the best ever. It was masterminded by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, with little oversight from Ditka; in fact, Ditka and Ryan had a largely adversarial relationship dating back to Ditka's hire as Ryan, who was already on the coaching staff when Ditka joined the Bears, felt that he should have been promoted into the head coaching position. Although the two men continued to work together, the relationship continued to deteriorate and with the Bears trailing by three touchdowns in a late season Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins that resulted in the team's only loss, Ryan finally snapped after Ditka, as he recounted in 2006 for NFL Network, told him that the defensive scheme was not working. The two began throwing punches at each other and had to be separated, and Ditka said that the relationship at that point became unsalvageable. In an unusual gesture, following the Bears Super Bowl victory, the players carried both Ryan and Ditka off the field. In addition, the 1985 Chicago Bears are one of the few teams to consistently challenge the undefeated 1972 Dolphins for the unofficial title of the "Greatest NFL Team of All-Time". The NFL Network series America's Game rated the 1985 Bears as the second-best Super Bowl champions ever.
Buddy Ryan left in 1986 to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. When asked if he was happy Ryan was gone, Ditka replied he was not happy, but "elated". In 1986, 1987, and 1988, the Bears won the Central Division title and earned three home playoff games. The first of those years saw the Bears finish the regular season with a 14-2 record to tie the New York Giants for the best in the entire league. However, the Bears were upset by the Washington Redskins in their first playoff game. The next year, the Bears finished second in the NFC with an 11-4 record, but were again upended by the Redskins en route to that team's second Super Bowl victory of the decade. The Bears finished 12-4 in 1988 and got homefield advantage, and defeated Ryan's Eagles in the Fog Bowl in their first game. However, the team was defeated by the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and this would be the last time the team would advance that far until they won the 2006 NFC Championship Game.
Ditka suffered a heart attack during the 1988 season and was expected to miss much of the season, but was on the sidelines as an "advisor" the next week and back in full charge the week after.
The Bears started 4–0 in 1989, but a series of last-second losses eventually led to a complete meltdown at the end of the season as the Bears finished 6–10. The Bears rallied to win a weak Central Division in 1990 and make the playoffs as a wild card in 1991, but were eliminated convincingly in the early rounds. After dropping to 5–11 in the 1992 season, the Bears fired Ditka. His 106 wins are the second-most in Bears history, behind only Halas.
On December 9, 2013, Ditka's Bears jersey number, 89, was retired in a halftime ceremony during a Monday Night Football game in Chicago as the Bears hosted the Dallas Cowboys, for whom Ditka also played and worked as an assistant coach under the late Tom Landry. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, and go Bears!" Ditka told the crowd.
New Orleans Saints
In 1997, he returned to coach the New Orleans Saints. His three seasons there were nowhere near as successful as his tenure in Chicago; indeed, Ditka later referred to his tenure with the Saints as the "three worst years" of his life.
Ditka was roundly criticized for the trading of all of the team's 1999 draft picks (plus their first round draft pick in 2000) to the Washington Redskins to move up in the draft and select Texas RB Ricky Williams (Washington would later use the picks to select future Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey, Jon Jansen, and LaVar Arrington). The trade was further mocked because of a magazine cover in which Ditka posed with Williams, who was wearing a wedding dress.
The drafting of Williams did not help the Saints' situation at all. In fact, the team regressed to a 3-13 mark in 1999. After a week-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons to drop the Saints to 2-10, Ditka took the blame for the team's poor offensive performance thus far in the season and said he was "probably the wrong guy for this job" and the Saints would probably be better off hiring someone else. Ditka claimed he "didn't have it anymore", was thinking about leaving, and "God puts people in places for reasons, and he probably put me here to be humbled. I deserve it." He claimed he had "failed" the team, and he perhaps had changed too much as a coach. The Saints only won one more time the remainder of the year and Ditka, along with general manager Bill Kuharich, lost his job at the end of the year. Despite the high expectations upon his hiring, Ditka's overall record with the Saints was 15–33. (By contrast his replacement, Jim Haslett, took the Saints to a 10-6 record and a division title the next year with essentially the same team.)
Over a total of 14 seasons as a head coach, Ditka amassed a regular-season record of 121–95 and a postseason record of 6–6.
Hall of Fame
In 1988, his fearsome blocking and 427 career receptions for 5,812 yards and 43 touchdowns earned him the honor of being the first tight end ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ditka also scored two touchdowns on offensive fumble recoveries, tying seven other players for the most in NFL history. In 1999, he was ranked number 90 on The Sporting News's list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
Head coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|CHI||1982||3||6||0||.333||12th in NFC||-||-||-||-|
|CHI||1983||8||8||0||.500||3rd in NFC Central||-||-||-||-|
|CHI||1984||10||6||0||.625||1st in NFC Central||1||1||.500||Lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game|
|CHI||1985||15||1||0||.938||1st in NFC Central||3||0||1.000||Super Bowl XX Champions|
|CHI||1986||14||2||0||.875||1st in NFC Central||0||1||.000||Lost to the Washington Redskins in Divisional Round|
|CHI||1987||11||4||0||.733||1st in NFC Central||0||1||.000||Lost to the Washington Redskins in Divisional Round|
|CHI||1988||12||4||0||.750||1st in NFC Central||1||1||.500||Lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game|
|CHI||1989||6||10||0||.375||4th in NFC Central||-||-||-||-|
|CHI||1990||11||5||0||.688||1st in NFC Central||1||1||.500||Lost to the New York Giants in Divisional Round|
|CHI||1991||11||5||0||.688||2nd in NFC Central||0||1||.000||Lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Wild Card Round|
|CHI||1992||5||11||0||.313||4th in NFC Central||-||-||-||-|
|NO||1997||6||10||0||.375||4th in NFC West||-||-||-||-|
|NO||1998||6||10||0||.375||3rd in NFC West||-||-||-||-|
|NO||1999||3||13||0||.188||5th in NFC West||-||-||-||-|
After his dismissal from the Bears in 1992, Ditka took a broadcasting job with NBC, working as an analyst on NFL Live and as a color commentator for many other NBC broadcasts. From the 2000 to the 2001 season he was a studio analyst on The NFL Today on CBS Sports. He is currently a commentator on ESPN's NFL Live, ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, and CBS Radio-Westwood One's Monday Night Football pregame show. On his radio show, Coach Ditka is called "America's Coach" by well known sidekick Jim Gray. Beginning in 2006, Ditka appeared on a Seattle radio program, "Groz with Gas" on 950 KJR-AM Seattle, on Thursday afternoons with Dave Grosby and Mike Gastineau. Ditka regularly appears on Chicago radio station ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM), often broadcasting on Thursday mornings from one of his eponymous restaurants along with ESPN 1000 mid-morning hosts Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle, a former Bears player under Ditka.
Ditka served as color commentator for ESPN's September 10, 2007, broadcast of Monday Night Football, alongside Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. He replicated this role on the second game of the doubleheader in 2008, as well.
In 1991, Ditka cooperated with Accolade to produce the computer game Mike Ditka's Ultimate Football. In 1995, Ditka starred as a football coach in a full-motion video game called Quarterback Attack with Mike Ditka, released for the Sega Saturn, PC, and 3DO.
Ditka appeared in several ads for Montgomery Ward in the early 1990s, promoting their electronics and appliances department, known as Electric Avenue.
Ditka performed "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in 1998, the first season after the death of Harry Caray, who had previously led the song. Chicago Now blogger Marcus Leshock derided the performance, dubbing Ditka "the worst 7th-inning singer in history."
Ditka was inducted to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Ditka has also done guest spots and cameos on shows from L.A. Law to Saturday Night Live, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. In 2005, Ditka had a major role in the comedy Kicking & Screaming, playing himself; he was recruited by Will Ferrell's character to be an assistant little league soccer coach.
In January 2007, Ditka used the Super Bowl return of the Chicago Bears as a platform to promote efforts by many early NFL players trying to raise support for former NFL players in need of money and medical assistance; he is a key member in the Gridiron Greats. Angry at the wealthy NFL for ignoring the players who helped to create the league, Ditka and other former players have since been attempting to raise funds, in the words of Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure, "for guys who made this league and built it on their backs, their knees, their legs and now they're all broken down and they can't even get a decent pension." Ultimately, however, in December 2007, Ditka folded his "Hall of Fame Assistance Trust Fund" charity amidst revelations that, "in 2005, the group gave out more money to pay celebrities to play golf than the group in its entire three years of operation gave out to injured players", according to Laurie Styron of the American Institute of Philanthropy. During Super Bowl XLIV, Ditka (who was not in the original group) joined other members of the 1985 Chicago Bears in resurrecting the "Super Bowl Shuffle" in a Boost Mobile commercial.
In the spring of 2007, Ditka worked alongside X Management and Geneva Hospitality to form Mike Ditka Resorts, currently consisting of two resorts in the Orlando, Florida, area. Ditka owns a chain of restaurants, "Ditka's," which has two locations in Illinois, one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a new one in Phoenix, Arizona. Ditka discovered singer John Vincent, who has been performing at his Chicago restaurant since 2001. Vincent performs in 20 different voices and sings the National Anthem regularly for the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Ditka and Vincent also own a record label together.
Ditka was a co-owner the Chicago Rush, an Arena Football League team. In August 2011, media reports noted that Ditka would be a financial investor for the new Elite Football League of India, a proposed American football league that will be India's first.
In 2012, Ditka partnered with Terlato Wines to produce his own collection of wines, produced in California. The partnership stemmed from a 20-year friendship between Ditka and Bill Terlato and their shared love of sports and food and wine. The first Mike Ditka Wines were released in fall 2012, including eight labels highlighting his career: "The Player" (2011 Pinot Grigio and 2010 Merlot), "The Coach" (2011 Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon), " The Hall of Famer" (2011 Chardonnay and 2011 Pinot Noir), and "The Restaurateur" pair which includes "The Icon" (2010 Cabernet Sauvignon) and "The Champion" (2010 Red Blend)." The same year, Ditka and Camacho Cigars partnered and produced a line of cigars called “The Mike Ditka Kickoff Series”. These cigars are named to highlight the milestones of Coach Ditka’s football career: “The Player”, The Coach”, and “The Hall of Famer”. All of these cigars are produced in Honduras.
In 2013, Ditka and Vienna Beef partnered to create Ditka Sausages, which will be eight inches long and one-third pound in weight. The two types are "Hot Beef Polish Sausage" and "Chicken Sausage with Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes".
In 2014, Ditka and Resultly partnered to feature his profile and product collections. Ditka's profile is featured on Resultly and he regularlrly interacts with users about the collections he creates of his favorite items from all over the web.
In the midst of a successful 1988 season, he suffered a heart attack, but bounced back quickly. In November 2012, he suffered a minor stroke at a suburban country club in Chicago. Later in the day, Ditka reported he was feeling "good right now and it's not a big deal."
In July 2004, Ditka, a self-described "ultra-ultra-ultra conservative", was reportedly considering running against the Democratic candidate, state senator Barack Obama, for an open seat in the U.S. Senate for Illinois in the 2004 Senate election. The seat was being vacated by Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican, and Republican nominee Jack Ryan withdrew from the race amid controversy at the end of June, leaving the Republicans in a bind. Local and national political leaders, from Illinois Republican Party Chair Judy Baar Topinka to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. George Allen, whose father by the same name was an assistant coach with the Bears in the 1960s when Ditka played, met with Ditka in an effort to persuade him to fill the spot on the ticket.
On July 14, however, Ditka announced he would not seek the nomination, citing personal and business considerations. His wife was against the run and he operates a chain of restaurants. Barack Obama went on to defeat the eventual Republican candidate, former U.S. ambassador, Alan Keyes in a landslide in the November 2004 election.
In stark contrast to the above-stated positions, Ditka appeared in an ad during the 2010 Illinois gubernatorial election for incumbent Democratic governor Pat Quinn. In the ad, Ditka stated that, "[D]oing the right thing for the people who put you in office is more important than what you can do for yourself in office . . . and I think he'll do that. I think he understands that . . . and I think he's good people." Quinn, at the time, was locked into a tight race against State Senator Bill Brady, a conservative Republican from Bloomington. Quinn would go on to narrowly defeat Brady. Four years later, in 2014, Ditka appeared in a televised campaign ad for Quinn's Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, who defeated Quinn in the general election.
In October 2011, Ditka and the 1985 team went to the White House after they did not attend in 1986 due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He presented President Obama with a Chicago Bears jersey with the number 85 on it with "Obama" on the back of it.
- Bill Swerski's Superfans
- List of celebrities who own wineries and vineyards
- List of National Football League head coaches with 50 wins
- Mayer, Larry (2013-05-24). "Bears to retire Mike Ditka’s number". Chicago Bears. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
- "Obituary: Mike Ditka: Aliquippa resident, father of Saints coach". Old.post-gazette.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Price, S.L. (2011-01-31). "The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- "Mike Ditka page on". Chicagobears.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01. Quote from article: "Mike's childhood name was Mike Dyzcko. His father was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania"
- "Pitt Retired Jerseys: #89 Mike Ditka". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- "Infographic: Iron Mike Ditka". Chicago Bears. 2013-12-08. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
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- America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, "#2. 1985 Chicago Bears." Premiered on CBS, Feb. 3, 2007
- "Greatest NFL Teams of All Time". Espn.go.com. 2002-08-14. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Greenberg, Jon (December 9, 2013). "Mike Ditka gets jersey retired". ESPN. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- Bill Baker, 'Wedding photo' of Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams was worth a thousand, April 18, 2009, Accessed May 11, 2010.
- [dead link]
- McCarthy, Michael (June 20, 2007). "ESPN tabs Greenberg, Golic to head second MNF team". USA Today. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "The 7 WORST 7th Inning Stretch Performances In History". Chicagonow.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- "Retired NFL Players". Blogs.sun-sentinel.com. 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- "Charity Run By NFL Legend Mike Ditka Folds". Firstcoastnews.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Jon GreenbergColumnist, ESPNChicago.comFollowArchive (2010-01-15). "Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" an enduring, endearing sports moment - ESPN Chicago". Sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "ditkasrestaurant.com". Ditkasrestaurant.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino - Dining & Restaurant". Wingilariver.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Football : Football News and Photos". chicagotribune.com. 2011-08-28. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Philadelphia Business Journal - by John George (2011-08-03). "Ron Jaworski is investor in new India football league - Philadelphia Business Journal". Bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- "Subscription Center". Chicagobusiness.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Mike Ditka Wines: Overview - Terlato Wines International". Terlatowines.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Iron Mike Ditka Joins Camacho Cigars - News & Features - Cigar Aficionado". Cigaraficionado.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- [dead link]
- "Vienna Beef and Coach Mike Ditka Partner to Launch Ditka Sausages". Yahoo! Finance. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "Mike Ditka and Jim McMahon team up again — for a commercial". Voices. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Mike Ditka suffers 'very minor stroke,' says he's OK". National Football League. 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
- "GOP's morality drive hits potholes". USA Today. July 19, 2004. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
- "Ditka: 'Second Thoughts Until The Day I Die' - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando". Local6.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- "Bruce Rauner turns to Ditka for campaign advice in new TV ad". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-11-29.
- "Photo gallery: 1985 Chicago Bears visit the White House". Chicagotribune.com. 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
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