It doesn't get more Chicago Bears than Mike Ditka.
The fiery, dedicated and passionate player-turned-coach will forever embody one of the NFL's most storied franchises, one steeped in tradition that dates back to the league's inception in 1920.
As a tight end, Ditka was a powerful and deceptively fast player who excelled as a blocker but truly made his mark as a receiver.
He was named to five Pro Bowls and made two All-Pro appearances while averaging 52.6 receptions, 750.5 yards and 5.6 touchdowns during his six-year stint with the Bears from 1961 to 1965.
The rugged 6'3'' University of Pittsburgh product was one of the most productive tight ends in the league during his time in Chicago:
He also enjoyed a successful 11-year career as head coach in Chicago that was highlighted by an historic victory in Super Bowl XX, which improved his already preeminent status in the Windy City.
Wimpy son of a Western Pennsylvania welder
Ditka was born into a blue-collar household on October 18, 1939 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Actually, his real name is Michael Dyczko.
However, because the Ukranian Dyczko was too difficult to pronounced, his family Americanized his name to Ditka.
He starred on the football field at the famed Aliquippa High School and, according to BearsHistory.com, head coach King Aschman said he saw a "wimpy 10th grader with chicken legs, but that wimpy 10th grader would work so hard he would cry. If you beat him to the ground, he would bite you, kick you. He was going to be a ballplayer. He was going to be a ballplayer if it killed him."
For the Panthers, Ditka was an All-American in 1960 and George Halas of the Bears took notice, selecting him No. 5 overall in the subsequent draft.
Star NFL tight end
Dikta burst onto the scene as a rookie with 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns at 19.2 yards per catch in 1961, quite the ridiculous statline for a tight end in that era.
He was an All-Pro in 1963 when the Bears won the NFL championship. He achieved this feat again in 1964.
After his stay in Chicago, Ditka played two years in Philadelphia with the Eagles and finished his 12-year professional career with the Dallas Cowboys before retiring in 1972.
In 158 games, he made 427 catches for 5,812 yards and 43 receiving touchdowns and had an indelible impact as a run-blocker.
In 1981, he became the first tight end to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ditka was hired by Halas in 1982 and had the Bears in the NFC Championship game in his third season with the team.
The following year, 1985, was a magical one for Ditka and the entire city of Chicago.
Ditka's Bears were the most dominant team in the NFL. They went 15-1 during the regular season and allowed a paltry 12 points per contest.
After outscoring their first two playoff opponents 45-0, the Bears were the easy favorites as they shuffled their way to Super Bowl XX.
Chicago then absolutely manhandled the New England Patriots 46-10 and were declared the Super Bowl champions.
Today, Ditka's 1985 Bears are considered one of the greatest Super Bowl champions of all-time with arguably the best defense in league history.
Chicago won five of the next six NFC North division titles, but failed to meet lofty expectations in the playoffs each year.
Following a 5-11 1992 campaign, Ditka was fired, but he had already become a legendary symbol for Bears football and in the NFL.
Football icons Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, Dan Hampton, Willie Gault and Richard Dent played under Ditka in Chicago.
His Chicago Legacy
Ditka's fervent sideline personality, disciplinarian coaching style and vast achievement have made him one of the most recognizable coaching figures of all time.
And who can forget his famed Bears sweatervest?
After a disappointing tenure in New Orleans with the Saints, Ditka retired from coaching after the 1999 campaign.
His candid and refreshingly outspoken personality made him a prime candidate to become a TV personality and NFL analyst, and he's been in football broadcasting ever since.
Mike Ditka, a sturdy western Pennsylvanian, who flourished as a devastating blocker and pass-catching tight end in college, went on to become a playing hero and coaching icon for the Chicago Bears.
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