Chicago Bears: 15 Greatest First Round Picks of All-Time

Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Mike Ditka, Chicago Bears
Mike Ditka, Chicago Bears. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

Before “Iron Mike” was “Da Coach”, he was revolutionizing the position of tight end. Mike Ditka, along with Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey, helped make pass-catching an important part of playing tight end in the 1960s.

Ditka was drafted in 1961 and Mackey came along two years later. Before these two, the tight end position was nothing more than an extra tackle that happened to be eligible to catch passes because they played on the end of the line.

Utilizing tight ends in the passing game before Ditka was a gimmick, but Ditka showed that with the right player, it could be a weapon. Ditka cracked 1,000 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns as a rookie and reached the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons in the league.

In 1963 and 1964, Ditka made First-Team All-Pro honors and help lead the Bears to the NFL Championship in 1963. Ditka only played six seasons in Chicago thanks to contract squabbles with George Halas.

After two miserable seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Ditka had a nice conclusion to his career under Tom Landry in Dallas. Ditka would become a coach under Landry who became his mentor, which helped Ditka become a Super Bowl winning head coach for Chicago in 1985.