Mike Ditka was born on October 9th 1939 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
He played college football as a tight end (and punter) for the University of Pittsburgh, where he also played baseball and basketball. Ditka caught 45 passes for 730 yards in his three seasons there.
In 1961, the Chicago Bears drafted Ditka as the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft where he made an immediate impression as a rookie by bringing a receiving threat to a position that had always been seen as a blocking position previously. As a receiving tight end, Ditka clocked up 58 receptions and twelve touchdowns that year, which earned him the title of Rookie of the Year
He played the next five years in Chicago, earning a Pro Bowl selection in each year. He ranks first in tight ends and fourth in Chicago’s history with 4,503 yards. He is fifth in receptions (316) and receiving touchdowns (34)
In 1967, Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles where he spent two seasons before spending the next four seasons in Dallas with the Cowboys. The highlight of his Cowboys career coming in Super Bowl VI where he caught a touchdown pass in the victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Mike Ditka retired after the 1972 season and went into a coaching role, remaining at Dallas as assistant coach to Tom Landry, where he remained for nine seasons.
In 1982 Ditka was hired as Chicago Bears head coach. By 1985 he had transformed the Bears into a team that went through the regular season with a 15-1 record and were the 1986 Super Bowl winning team when they trounced the New England Patriots 46-10 at Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.
That 1985/86 Bears team was possibly the only one capable of being a serious contender to challenge the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins team as the best ever NFL team.
The star had reached its zenith that year however and a slow but steady decline in results began. Ditka held on to the head coach position until 1992 when he was fired with the Bears at 5 and 11 on the season.
Their followed a less than inspiring spell with the New Orleans Saints from 1995 to 1997 until he was fired along with the whole coaching staff.
Ditka was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, becoming the first tight end to be inducted. During his career, he was a Super Bowl winner as both a player (1972) and a coach (1986) a five-time Pro Bowl selection, NFL 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, 1960’s All-Decade Team and a member of the 100 Greatest All-Time Chicago Bears. His number 89 was retired by both the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Chicago Bears in his honour.
His battling spirit was probably best summed up in 1988 when he suffered a heart attack but was back on the bench in an advisory role the next week and back in full charge of the Bears the week after that. His nick name of Iron Mike was well earned!