Ditka, Mike

Card: Upper Deck Legends 1997
Acquired: TTM 2020, C/o Home
Sent: 5/4 Received: 5/19 (15 days)*
Failure: 2010, 2017, 2018, C/o Home
* Donation included

Well 4th time is the charm right? I had tried 3 times previously going back as long as- heck 11 years ago near when I first started again back in 2010. I was beginning to get quite frustrated so I spent a lot of time studying Mike’s signing habits. It always seemed that I missed him by just a few weeks on my 2017 and 2018 TTM attempts, but I think what cinched it for me is Mike and his wife are snowbirds- so I hit him up at his southern address instead of his northern address during the month of May.

Every time previously I had sent to him, I never heard anything back. I had tried all sorts of strategies, and probably flushed 8-10 cards already. The last time I sent to him, I ran out of cards that I really wanted to get signed, so I made sure to have this Legends card ready at the get go, because it was the one I really wanted to get.

This Upper Deck Legends 1997 card is an absolute treasure. I love these old press photos of players and this one of Mike is exceptional. Great action shot and expression of intensity on Mike’s face. I’m not sure if it is colorized, but regardless the colors are spot on. If you look closely enough you can see the photographers signature in the righthand corner.

Mike is brass tacks through and through. He’s the take no prisoners, make no apologies, Man’s man of football. Ditka played ball for Pitt from 1958 to 1960. He caught 45 passes for 730 yards and 7 TDs while playing wide receiver for the Panthers. A fine athlete who excelled at basketball and baseball as well- Ditka was added to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

He was drafted during the NFL-AFL war in 1961, and opted to sign with the Bears (over the Oilers). The Bears wisely transitioned Mike to tight end in the pros, and thanks to his unique size, speed, hands, toughness, and athletic talent, Mike redefined the position for future generations. He caught 56 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 TDs- numbers unheard of at the time, earning him rookie of the year honors. He earned Pro Bowl honors from 1961 to 1965, and All-Pro nominations in 1963 and 1964.

In 1966 the Eagles traded QB Jack Concannon and an unspecified 1968 draft pick to the Bears for Mike. During his time with the Eagles however, Mike never started a full 14 season for the team, however he still managed to catch 39 passes for 385 yards. The Cowboys then stepped forward and traded defensive end David McDaniels for Mike in 1969. Mike spent the next 4 years there, as a key backup, although he started the entire final game of his career in 1972, and caught a TD during Super Bowl VI in 1971.

Mike jumped into coaching with the Cowboys in 1973. He earned loads of experience over the next 9 seasons under head coach Tom Landry. Mike proved you could indeed return home, as he became head coach of the Chicago Bears in 1982. Ditka built a winner out of the Bears, culminating in Da’ Bears 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX, where they are considered the second best team in the history of the league. The Bears continued to be the Monsters of the Midway again, trademarked by a stingy defense, and a strong running game, earning 3 more trips to the NFC Championship.

Mike even suffered a heart attack in 88, but managed to coach the team for the majority of the season. The Bears continued to represent well, but by 1992 the game was up for Mike in Chicago. He was hired by the Saints in 1997, however he did not see the same measure of success that he enjoyed in Chicago. Mike is notable for trading his entire 1999 draft class to Washington to draft Ricky Williams.

Mike was the first tight end enshrined into the the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 1989, his number was retired by the Bears in 1989. He’s done color commentating and analyst work on both radio and TV for CBS, NBC, and ESPN, and across the country.

He owns restaurants, plays golf, chomps cigars, and owns classic cars, but is passionate about raising money for former NFL players in need of medical help. Mike also was involved with video games, coming out with his own brand of football games, released during the early 90s, and was an owner of the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League at one point.