Also known as “Iron Mike,” Mike Ditka is a former football NFL player, coach and TV sports commentator who ranked 90th place in The Sporting News list of 100 Greatest Football Players for 1999.
Born as Michael Keller Ditka, Jr. on 18 October 1939 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, he grew up in the nearby town of Aliquippa. Since his father belonged to a Ukrainian family that migrated to America, his surname was Dyczko, which was such a tongue-twister that his family eventually changed it to Ditka, which can be pronounced more easily.
After graduating from elementary at St. Titus School, Mike Ditka went to Aliquippa High School where he distinguished himself as a three sport star. In 1958, he started playing for the University of Pittsburgh and quickly built a reputation as one of the best tight ends in college football history while serving as the punter of the team. By the time he reached his senior year, he was a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team. Twenty-five years later, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Ditka signed with the Chicago Bears in the 1961 NFL Draft. During his first season, he had 56 receptions playing in a tight end position earning him the Rookie of the Year award. Mike continued playing during the next five years with the Bears and played on the 1963 NFL chanpionship team. In 1967, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and shipped off to the Dallas Cowboys two years later. In 1988, he became the first tight-end to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with 427 receptions for 5,812 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Taking over the head coaching role for the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka led the team to 6 NFC Central titles and 3 trips to the NFC Championship Game. In 26 January 1986, Mike led the Bears to a resounding 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX earning the team the reputation as that year’s second best Super Bowl champions next to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
In 1992, Mike Ditka started his broadcasting career working as analyst and color commentator for NFL coverages by NBC, CBS Sports, ESPN and CBS Radio-Westwood. In 2006, Mike joined a Thursday afternoon radio program in Seattle called “Groz with Gas” on 950 KJR-AM with Dave Grosby and Mike Gastineau. In addition, he also appears regularly on Thursday mornings on WMVP-AM (ESPN 1000) with Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle which is broadcasted from one of his Ditka’s restaurant chain.
Mike Ditka decribes himself as a conservative extremist. In 2004, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Senator George Allen and Illinois Republican Party Chair Judy Baar Topinka tried to persuade Mike to run against Democrat Barack Obama for an open seat in the U.S. Senate during the 2004 Senate election. However, because of personal and business considerations, Mike annouinced that he would decline any nomination. Instead, he introduced Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at a rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The rest is history, as Obama went on to win the Senate seat in 2004, and eventually went on to win the U.S. presidency in 2009.