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Mike Ditka

Michael Keller Ditka, Jr. (born October 18, 1939, in Carnegie, Pennsylvania) also known as Iron Mike Ditka or Da Coach, is a former American football NFL player, television commentator, and coach. Ditka coached the Chicago Bears for 11 years and New Orleans Saints for 3 years. Ditka and Tom Flores are the only two people to win Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach. Ditka was the only individual to participate in the last two Chicago Bears' championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.

Early life and college

Mike's childhood name was Mike Dyczko. His father was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania. The name Dyzcko was too much of a tongue-twister in Carnegie, PA., where Mike was born on October 18, 1939, so the family name was changed to Ditka. in the Pittsburgh area town of Carnegie, Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. In elementary school, he was enrolled at St. Titus School, located on Franklin Avenue and Sycamore Street in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.

A three sport star at Aliquippa High School, he was recruited by Notre Dame, Penn State, and Pitt. The Aliquippa High team doctor, Dr. John L. Miller had taken him to Pitt games and encouraged him to attend Pitt. Ditka played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1958-1960, where he also became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He started all 3 seasons and is widely considered one of the best tight ends in college football history. In addition to playing tight end, he also served as the team's punter. He led the team in receiving in all three of his seasons with them and was a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in his senior year. In 1986, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Ditka would also become the first of many athletes from Aliquippa or adjacent Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania (which uses an Aliquippa mailing address) to have success in the NFL. Other notable Aliquippa/Hopewell natives that followed Ditka into the NFL include Tony Dorsett, Sean Gilbert, and Ty Law. Current New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Buffalo Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny, and free agent cornerback Josh Lay also hail from the area.

He has 4 children with his first wife Marge: Mike, Mark, Megan, and Matt. He divorced Marge in 1973 and married his second wife Diana in 1977.

NFL career

Player

The Bears drafted Ditka fifth overall in the 1961 NFL Draft. His presence was immediately felt. In his first season, Ditka had 56 receptions, introducing a new dimension to a tight end position that had previously been dedicated to blocking. 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. 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.

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 2 touchdowns on offensive fumble recoveries, tying 7 other players for the most in NFL history. In 1999, he was ranked number 90 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Coach

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 and three NFC Championships, including the one preceding their Super Bowl victory in 1977.

Chicago Bears

In 1982, Chicago Bears founder George Halas personally sought out Ditka to take over the head coaching reins, and reverse what had been a mostly dreary performance by the team in the years since Halas retired as head coach. Reversing the Bears' pitiful record of only two winning seasons in the previous nineteen, Ditka led the Bears to six NFC Central titles and three trips to the NFC Championship. 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. Football commentators widely regard the 1985 Bears defense as one of the best ever, which was masterminded by defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, with little oversight from Ditka. In an unusual gesture, following the Bears Super Bowl victory, Ryan, as well as Ditka, was carried off the field by team members. He said that his greatest regret about that Super Bowl was not calling a running play for Walter Payton to score a touchdown. In addition, the 1985 Chicago Bears are one of the few teams who consistently challenge the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins for the unofficial title of the "Greatest NFL Team of All-Time." The NFL Network "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 finished each year with either the best or second best record in the NFC. However, all three teams lost in the playoffs at home. 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 wildcard in 1991, but were eliminated convincingly in the early rounds. After dropping to 5-11 in the 1992 season, the Bears fired Ditka.

He was awarded NFL Coach of the Year honors in 1985 and 1988 by the Associated Press, The Sporting News, and Pro Football Weekly.

Ditka was noted for making headlines regardless of what happened on the field. In 1983, he broke his wrist after punching a locker in an angry halftime tirade. In 1985, he was arrested and convicted of DWI after returning from a game with San Francisco. In the midst of a very successful 1988 season, Ditka suffered a heart attack, but bounced back quickly. On another occasion in 1987, he threw an enormous piece of chewing gum at a San Francisco 49ers fan who had heckled and thrown a drink at him during a Monday night match-up. In 2007, a popular YouTube video showed 9 minutes worth of "highlights" from Ditka's various press conferences during the late 1980s as he jousted with reporters and (on occasions) passing fans; included were rants in which he shouted to one heckler "See that, that's your IQ buddy - ZERO!" and one instance when a reporter noted that Ditka seemed upset. A visibly furious Ditka responded without making eye contact, "I've never been upset in my life".

New Orleans Saints

In 1997, he returned to coach the New Orleans Saints, which he refers to 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 in order to move up in the draft and select Texas RB Ricky Williams. The trade was further mocked because of a magazine cover in which Ditka posed with Williams, who was wearing a wedding dress. Over a total of 14 seasons as a head coach, Ditka amassed a regular season record of 121-95-0 and a postseason record of 6-6.

Broadcaster

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 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 Mark 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. The "three Mikes" make up ESPN's second MNF broadcasting team; the first team consists of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and Tony Kornheiser.

Notable about Ditka as a color-commentator is that while he is immortalized and beloved in Chicago, he hasn't forgotten his Pittsburgh-area roots, often picking the Steelers to win (even though Ditka has no ties to the organization in any form), even if the Steelers are heavy underdogs in their matchups.

Other ventures

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", released for the Sega Saturn, PC and 3DO.

Ditka has also done guest spots and cameos on shows from L.A. Law to Saturday Night Live, and Third Rock from the Sun. In 2005, Mike Ditka portrayed himself in the comedy Kicking & Screaming.

Ditka is also one of the owners of the Chicago Rush, an Arena Football Team. After the Rush's victory at ArenaBowl XX, Ditka could be seen celebrating on the field.

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 money to former NFL players in need of money and medical assistance. Angry at the wealthy NFL ignoring the players that helped to create the league, Ditka and other former players have since been attempting to raise money, 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.

Ditka was a sponsor of Consort hair spray for men.

Ditka is a FOTS (Friend of the Show) on Team 1380's The Morning After in St. Louis.

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.

Mike Ditka's chain of restaurants, Ditka's, is to open a location in Robinson Township near Pittsburgh, PA in October 2008.

Politics

In July 2004, Ditka, a self-described "ultra-ultra-ultra conservative", was reportedly considering running against Democrat 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 Republican Senatorial Campaign 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 former ambassador Alan Keyes in the November 2004 election.

See also

References

External links

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