As a notable NFL player and head coach, “Iron” Mike Ditka has been an inspiration to may avid football fans. As the 21st person associated with the Chicago Bears to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “Iron Mike”, as he was affectionately called, has shown others that hand work and dedication pay off; the road to victory is long and paved with opposition, but is well worth the sacrifice.
Hailed for his stellar performance as a valuable tight end receiver, with a career record of 5,812 yards, 427 receptions and 43 touchdowns, Ditka has received numerous awards and recognition, including the following:
- 1960 All-American NFL Player
- The Chicago Bear’s First Pick of 1961
- Rookie of the Year in 1961
- The first tight end to be elected into the Football Hall of Fame
- Three NFL Super Bowl Championships
- Five Pro Bowl selections
Born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania on October 18, 1939, played high school football at Aliquippa High School and as a result of his skill and dedication, was recruited by Penn State, Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. The young Ditka, also interested in majoring in dentistry, chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh and played from 1958 to 1960. For his considerable skill, Ditka was entered into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Iron Mike later played in the NFL with several different teams, including:
- The Chicago Bears (1961 – 1966)
- The Philadelphia Eagles (1967 – 1968)
- The Dallas Cowboys (1969 – 1972)
Ditka was one to watch on the field and throughout his playing career and for his contributions on the field, was recognized by the NFL and awarded a coveted place in the National Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
After enjoying an acclaimed playing career with the NFL, Ditka decided to hang up his cleats and begin a career in coaching. He began his coaching career in 1973 as the Assistant Coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He stayed with the team until 1981. Ditka also work in a coaching capacity with several other teams throughout his career, including his very own Chicago Bears from 1982 to 1992 and the New Orleans Saints from 1997 to 1999. For his work as a coach, Ditka was honored with several career awards, among which include the 1985 Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year, the 1988 Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of the Year, and two-time UPI NFL Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Off the field, Iron Mike also enjoyed a career as a sports newscaster and analyst for NBC and NFL Live. He worked with ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown and CBS Radio-Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show and was commonly referred to as “America’s Coach” on his radio show by co-host Jim Gray. With an insatiable love of football, Ditka has been a key player both on and off the field, showing others that the game doesn’t have to end at retirement.