Mike Ditka, born on October 18, 1939, was a former N.F.L. player, coach, and T.V. commentator. He was named U.P.I. N.F.L. Rookie of the Year in 1961, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and a six-time All-Pro Tight End with the N.F.L’s Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys. Ditka is also a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He was a 1963 N.F.L. champion with the Bears and a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI team. As an assistant coach for the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII and the coach of the Bears in Super Bowl XX, Ditka was named to the N.F.L’s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams. From 1982 to 1992, he was the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Ditka also head-coached the New Orleans Saints between 1997 to 1999. His nickname “Iron Mike” comes from the fact that he was born and raised in a steel town in Pennsylvania. We invite you to celebrate his special day together with us.
Michael Keller Ditka was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania on October 18, 1939. He is the oldest child of Mike Ditka Sr. and Charlotte Keller with three siblings, Ashton, David, and Mary Ann. His father worked as a welder in Western Pennsylvania’s coal-mining and steel-manufacturing area. Ditka has Polish and Ukrainian ancestry from his father’s side, as well as Irish and German ancestry from his mother. His actual surname was “Dyczko,” but due to pronunciation difficulty, his family changed their surname to “Ditka.” As a child, he attended St. Titus School before continuing his study at Aliquippa High School where he became a three-sport star under head coach Press Maravich. He was later recruited by Penn State, Notre Dame, and the University of Pittsburgh, ultimately choosing to go to the Pitts. He played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1958 to 1960. While he was there, he also joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. Ditka started all three seasons on the football team where he led them in receiving, also serving as a linebacker, punter, and defensive end. He was named the team captain in his senior year and became a unanimous first-team selection as a two-way end on the College Football All-America. Ditka completed his career in college with 45 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ditka signed with the Chicago Bears in 1961, receiving the Rookie of the Year honors the same year. He played for the Bears for five seasons and earned a Pro Bowl trip each year, also helping the team to win the 1963 N.F.L. championship. Ditka ranked fourth in the Bears’ history and first among tight ends with 4,503 yards, placing fifth in both receptions and touchdown catches. From 1967 to 1968, Ditka played for the Philadephia Eagles before signing with Dallas Cowboys in the following 1968. During the 1971 season, he caught 30 passes and helped the Cowboys in capturing their first Super Bowl title in January 1972. He subsequently served as the Cowboys’ assistant coach following his retirement after the 1972 season, capturing the second Super Bowl title in 1978. He returned to the Chicago Bears as their head coach in 1982 and scored six National Football Conference (N.F.C.) Central Division titles, three appearances in the title game of N.F.C., and completed with a Super Bowl victory. Ditka was voted as N.F.L. Coach of the Year twice in 1985 and 1988. He was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986, followed by his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He was the first tight end to ever receive the honor.
After the Bears’ play fell off in 1992, Ditka was let go and returned in 1997 as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, where he worked for three seasons. Ditka was one of two tight ends who were named to the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team of the N.F.L. in 1994. His 89 jersey number was retired in 1997 by the University of Pittsburgh. In 1999, he was ranked 90th on the 100 Greatest Football Players by The Sporting News. Ditka was also inducted in 2001 into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. On December 9, 2013, his Bears 89 jersey number was retired during a Monday Night Football in a halftime ceremony when the Bears hosted Dallas Cowboys, Ditka’s former team where he used to play and work as an assistant coach. He was inducted into the inaugural 16-member class in 2018 of the University of Pittsburgh Athletics Hall of Fame.
Ditka plays for the University of Pittsburgh.
Ditka signs with the Chicago Bears and receives the Rookie of the Year honor in his first year.
Ditka briefly joins the Philadelphia Eagles before signing with the Dallas Cowboys.
Ditka serves as the Cowboys’ assistant coach after his retirement as a player.
Ditka is inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Polish-American Sports.
Ditka is inducted into the inaugural 16-member class in 2018 of the University of Pittsburgh Athletics Hall of Fame.
Why We Love Mike Ditka
He is a history maker
Ditka is the only person to this day to participate in the last two Chicago Bears’ league championships as a player and head coach. In modern N.F.L. history, Ditka, Flores, Pederson, and Kubiak are the only people to win a championship as the head coach of a team where he was previously a player.
He is a phenomenal achiever
Throughout his career as a professional football player, Ditka was recorded to have made 427 receptions, scored 43 touchdowns, and gained 5,812 yards. It was a phenomenal total for a tight end thus far.
He was born for sports
Other than football, during his college years, Ditka also played baseball as an outfielder and basketball as a forward. Additionally, he was an intramural wrestling champion.
5 Surprising Facts
His other career choice
A celebrated football player and coach, Ditka originally intended to become a dentist.
He has a published autobiography
Ditka has an autobiography published in 1986, titled “Ditka: An Autobiography,” which was co-written by Don Pierson.
He is a game producer
Ditka worked with Accolade in 1991 to produce video games on P.C. and Sega Mega Drive, “Mike Ditka Ultimate Football” and “Mike Ditka Power Football.”
He produced a wine collection
Ditka partnered with Terlato Wines in 2012 to produce a wine collection, a collaboration that stems from his 20-year friendship with Bill Terlato over their love for sports, food, and wine.
He sang the game anthem
In 1998, Ditka performed ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ during a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
Mike Ditka FAQs
Who was Mike Ditka married to?
Ditka was previously married to Marge from 1961 to 1973, from whom he has four children named Mark, Matt, Mike, and Megan. He married Diane Trantham in 1977.
What happened to Mike Ditka on E.S.P.N?
In 2019, it was reported by “The Big Lead” that Ditka would be replaced by Matt Hasselbeck on ESPN’s Sunday Countdown, but he will hold an “unspecified emeritus-type N.F.L. role.”
Is Mike Ditka ill?
Ditka once suffered a heart attack during a successful 1988 season. He also suffered a minor stroke in November 2012 at a suburban country club in Chicago. He was hospitalized in Naples, Florida, in November 2018 after suffering a heart attack while playing golf.
Mike Ditka’s birthday dates