Mike Ditka was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, a Borough about 6 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. He grew up in Aliquippa about 26 miles away. He attended Aliquippa High School where he played football, baseball, and basketball. He played football for the University of Pittsburgh where he was a receiver, linebacker and more. “Iron Mike” Ditka was drafted by the Bears in the 1961 draft. He played with the Bears from 1961-1966 and then moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967-1968 and finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1969-1972. Ditka was larger than life in so many ways.
Mike Ditka had size, power, skill, and desire. The 6-foot-3, 228 pound Ditka impressed football fans and opponents with excellent receiving skills, the strength of an interior lineman, and the running ability of a halfback. After his playing days and assistant coaching duties in Dallas under Tom Landry, he returned as head coach in 1982 at George Halas’s request to lead the Bears to their Super Bowl XX championship. The Bears had many good years under Ditka. The Bears were 106-62 under “Da Coach.”
As a player, Ditka could catch a pass in traffic and then break several more tackles for a big gain. Ditka’s size and receiving skills showed how much more might be expected from the tight end. As a coach, he was the ultimate enforcer. He wanted fans, players, and coaches absolutely loyal to the Bears.
Ditka had 316 receptions for 4,503 yards for 34 touchdowns the Bears. In all, he had 427 receptions for 5,812 years and 43 touchdowns in the NFL.
Ditka was a 2-time All Pro and invited to 5 Pro Bowls. Ditka was a key player on the 1963 Championship Bears and coached the Bears to another championship with the 1985 Bears Super Bowl XX winners. He was the 1961 Rookie of the Year and Coach of the year in 1985 and 1988. Ditka was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1988. He was named to the 100 Top Chicago Bears of All Time and he is one of the most influential men in NFL history.
By many accounts, Ditka is also one of the most successful businessmen who has come from the players’ ranks.