Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 89 Days with Mike Ditka

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports
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Today brings us 89 days until the start of the 2023 NFL season, meaning that today's Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff will revolve around the most prolific player to wear the number 89 in franchise history, tight end Mike Ditka.

Mike Ditka's path to the Chicago Bears

A Pittsburgh-area native, Mike Ditka attended Aliquippa High School, where he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. Ditka, whose Pittsburgh upbringing would help usher in the nickname "Iron Mike", eventually attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he participated in these same three sports at the varsity level, even starting on the football team as a tight end, defensive lineman, and punter.

At Pitt, Ditka led the football team in receiving yards for three consecutive seasons and was even recognized as an All-American at the tight end position in 1960, his final collegiate season. Months later, Ditka would be selected by the Chicago Bears with the fifth overall pick of the 1961 NFL Draft.

As a professional, Ditka impacted the Chicago Bears immediately, as the rookie started in all 14 of the team's games while accumulating over 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Following the season, Ditka was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as being named to his first Pro Bowl.

In the ensuing 1962 season, Ditka had another great season, logging 904 yards and five touchdowns while being named to another Pro Bowl and an All-Pro team. In 1963, Ditka went for nearly 800 yards and eight touchdowns, again starting in all 14 of the team's games, while being named to another Pro Bowl and All-Pro team. Following the season, the team took on the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game, where the Bears would prevail, with Ditka accounting for 38 of the team's 221 total yards.

Coming off an NFL Championship, Ditka logged another great season, adding Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections yet again. In 1965, Ditka's numbers dropped a bit, with under 500 receiving yards and just two touchdowns, but earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods once more. In 1966, Ditka's last season with the team, the tight end had his worst season as a Bear, with just under 400 yards and two touchdowns, but still made second-team All-Pro despite missing the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

Following the 1966 season, Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for quarterback Jack Concannon. In his home state of Pennsylvania, Ditka played for two seasons, logging under 400 yards and two touchdowns in 20 total appearances from 1967 to 1968.