American Football Wiki
'Mike Ditka'
Mike Ditka in the press booth during a National Football League pre-season game between the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears.
Personal Information
Tight End / Head Coach
Jersey #(s)
Born October 18 1939 (1939-10-18) (age 82) in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)Weight: 228 lb (103 kg)
Career information
Year(s) 19611972
NFL Draft 1961 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
College Pittsburgh
Professional teams
Career stats
Receptions 427
Receiving yards 5,812
TDs 43 TDs
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

  • 5x Pro Bowl selection (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965)
  • 3x Super Bowl champion (VI, XII, XX)
  • NFL Championship (1963)
  • 2x AP NFL Coach of Year (1985, 1988)
  • 1985 Sporting News NFL Coach of Year
  • 1988 Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of Year
  • 2x UPI NFL Coach of Year (1985, 1988)
  • 1961 UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of Year

Michael Keller Ditka, Jr. (born October 18, 1939) is a former American football NFL player, television commentator, and coach. Ditka coached the Chicago Bears for 11 years and New Orleans Saints for three 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 both of the last two Chicago Bears' championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.

Early life and college career

Ditka was born as Michael Dyczko in the Pittsburgh-area town of Carnegie, Pennsylvania on October 18, 1939. The oldest child of Mike Sr. and Charlotte, he grew up in nearby Aliquippa, Pennsylvania with siblings Ashton, David, and Mary Ann. Mike Sr., a welder, was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian[1] family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania. The surname "Dyczko" was difficult to pronounce in his hometown, so the family name was changed to "Ditka."[1] Ditka attended St. Titus School.

A three-sport star at Aliquippa High School, Ditka hoped to escape his hometown's manufacturing jobs by attending college with a football scholarship. Planning to become a dentist,[2] he was recruited by Notre Dame, Penn St, and Pittsburgh. Ditka played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1958–1960, where he also became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He started all three 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.

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

Playing career

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears drafted Ditka fifth overall in the 1961 NFL Draft, while the Houston Oilers drafted him eighth overall in the first round in the 1961 AFL Draft. He signed with the Bears and his presence was immediately felt. In his first season, Ditka had 58 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.

Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys

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.

Hall of Fame Enshrinement

In 1988,[3] 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 two touchdowns on offensive fumble recoveries, tying seven other players for the most in NFL history. In 1999, he was ranked number 90 on The Sporting News's list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Coaching career

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 Game. 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. Ditka has stated that one of his biggest regrets in life was not letting Walter Payton score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, instead opting for Jim McMahon to run it in twice and rookie defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry to run it in once. 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. 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." [4] 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 wild card 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.

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 (Washington would later use the picks to select future Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey, Jon Jansen and LaVar Arrington). The trade was further mocked because of a magazine cover in which Ditka posed with Williams, who was wearing a wedding dress.[5] Following the Saints' dismal 3–13 season (which included a loss to the 0-7 expansion Cleveland Browns on a Hail Mary pass), Ditka along with general manager Bill Kuharich were fired. Despite the high expectations upon his hiring, Ditka's overall record with the Saints was 15–33. Over a total of 14 seasons as a head coach, Ditka amassed a regular season record of 121–95 and a postseason record of 6–6.


In 1983, Ditka 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.[6] In 1986, Ditka formed a gesture with his hand and told a heckler, "See that? That's your IQ, buddy. Zero."[7] 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 a piece of chewing gum at a San Francisco 49ers fan who had heckled and thrown a drink at him during a Monday night matchup.[8]

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CHI 1982 3 6 0 .333 12th in NFC - - - -
CHI 1983 8 8 0 .500 3rd in NFC Central - - - -
CHI 1984 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game
CHI 1985 15 1 0 .938 1st in NFC Central 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl XX Champions
CHI 1986 14 2 0 .875 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to the Washington Redskins in Divisional Round
CHI 1987 11 4 0 .733 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to the Washington Redskins in Divisional Round
CHI 1988 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game
CHI 1989 6 10 0 .375 4th in NFC Central - - - -
CHI 1990 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to the New York Giants in Divisional Round
CHI 1991 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Wild Card Round
CHI 1992 5 11 0 .313 4th in NFC Central - - - -
CHI Total 106 62 0 .631 6 6 .500
NO 1997 6 10 0 .375 4th in NFC West - - - -
NO 1998 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC West - - - -
NO 1999 3 13 0 .188 5th in NFC West - - - -
NO Total 15 33 0 .313
Total 121 95 0 .560 6 6 .500

Broadcasting career

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, ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, 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 Marc 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.[1] He replicated this role on the second game of the doubleheader in 2008 as well.

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 performed "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in 1998, the first season after the death of Harry Caray, who had previously led the song. Chicago Now blogger Marcus Leshock derided the performance, dubbing Ditka "the worst 7th-inning singer in history."[9]

Ditka was inducted to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Ditka has also done guest spots and cameos on shows from L.A. Law to Saturday Night Live, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. In 2005, Ditka portrayed himself in the comedy Kicking & Screaming as a little league soccer coach, alongside Will Ferrell.

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 support for former NFL players in need of money and medical assistance. Angry at the wealthy NFL for ignoring the players that helped to create the league, Ditka and other former players have since been attempting to raise funds, 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."[10] Ultimately, however, in December 2007, Ditka folded his "Hall of Fame Assistance Trust Fund" charity amidst revelations that, "in 2005 the group gave out more money to pay celebrities to play golf than the group in its entire three years of operation gave out to injured players," according to Laurie Styron of the American Institute of Philanthropy.[11] During Super Bowl XLIV, Ditka (who was not in the original group) joined other members of the 1985 Chicago Bears in resurrecting the Super Bowl Shuffle in a Boost Mobile commercial.[12]

In the spring of 2007 Ditka worked alongside X Management and Geneva Hospitality to form Mike Ditka Resorts [2], currently consisting of two resorts in the Orlando, Florida area. Ditka owns a chain of restaurants, "Ditka's," which has two locations in Illinois and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ditka is a co-owner the Chicago Rush, an Arena Football League team. In August 2011, media reports noted that Ditka would be a financial investor for the new Elite Football League of India, a proposed American football league that will be India's first.[13][14]


In July 2004, Ditka, a self-described "ultra-ultra-ultra conservative",[15] 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 National Republican Senatorial 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).[16] Barack Obama went on to defeat former ambassador Alan Keyes in a landslide in the November 2004 election. In October 2008, Ditka introduced vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at a rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

In stark contrast to the above-stated positions, Ditka appeared in an ad during the 2010 Illinois gubernatorial election for incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. In the ad, Ditka states that, "[D]oing the right thing for the people who put you in office is more important than what you can do for yourself in office . . . and I think he'll do that. I think he understands that . . . and I think he's good people." Quinn, at the time, was locked into a tight race against State Senator Bill Brady a conservative Republican from Bloomington. Quinn would go on to narrowly defeat Brady.

In October 2011, Ditka presented President Obama with a Chicago Bears jersey with the number 85 on it with Obama on the back of it.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mike Ditka page on. Retrieved on 2011-09-01. Quote from article: "Mike's childhood name was Mike Dyzcko. His father was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania"
  2. Price, S.L.. "The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa", 2011-01-31. Retrieved on 2011-02-06. 
  3. years - Pro Football Hall of Fame
  4. Greatest NFL Teams of All Time. (2002-08-14). Retrieved on 2011-09-01.
  5. Bill Baker, 'Wedding photo' of Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams was worth a thousand, April 18, 2009, Accessed May 11, 2010.
  6. "Ditka's Defense Falters", New York Times, 1986-02-15. Retrieved on 2011-09-01. 
  7. "Since Buddy's Gone, Ditka Spars with Fans", September 29, 1986. Retrieved on 2011-09-23. Template:Subscription required
  8. "Ditka Cuts Interviews", New York Times, 1987-12-17. Retrieved on 2011-09-01. 
  9. The 7 WORST 7th Inning Stretch Performances In History. Retrieved on 2011-09-01.
  10. Retired NFL Players. (2007-02-02). Retrieved on 2011-09-01.
  11. Charity Run By NFL Legend Mike Ditka Folds. Retrieved on 2011-09-01.
  13. "Football : Football News and Photos",, 2011-08-28. Retrieved on 2011-09-01. Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. 
  14. Philadelphia Business Journal - by John George. "Ron Jaworski is investor in new India football league - Philadelphia Business Journal",, 2011-08-03. Retrieved on 2011-09-01. 
  15. "GOP's morality drive hits potholes", USA Today, July 19, 2004. Retrieved on May 12, 2010. 
  16. Ditka: 'Second Thoughts Until The Day I Die' - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando. Retrieved on 2011-09-01.

See also

External links