“When people think of football they think of Mike Ditka,” Governor Quinn said. “He was the best tight end of all time, and 'Da Coach’ molded and guided arguably the best football team of all time – the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears. He is one of just two men to win a championship as both player and coach. I urge all Illinoisans to join me in congratulating him today.”
Mike Ditka was a football standout at the University of Pittsburgh in his native Pennsylvania before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1961, where he won Rookie of the Year. He played tight end for the Bears through 1966, was selected for the Pro Bowl each year, and was part of the championship 1963 team in the years before the advent of the Super Bowl. While with the Bears, Ditka amassed 4,503 yards receiving, first among Bears tight ends; and 316 receptions and 34 touchdowns, placing him fifth of all Bears players.
Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967 and then to the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, where he played for four seasons and caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI. Ditka was the first tight end enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 for his blocking, 427 career receptions for 5,812 yards, and 43 career touchdowns.
After his playing career ended, Ditka was part of the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff from 1973 to 1981. He was named head coach of the Chicago Bears in 1982, guiding them to a Super Bowl victory in 1985, and remained as “Da Coach” through 1992. Ditka was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Ditka has also been a sports commentator on national television and owns restaurants in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.