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Ditka is the only person to participate in both of the last two Chicago Bears' league championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985. Under head coach Press Maravich, Ditka was a three-sport star at Aliquippa High School.
He is known by the nickname "Iron Mike", which he has said comes from his being born and raised in a steel town in Pennsylvania. Ditka hoped to escape his hometown's manufacturing jobs by attending college with a football scholarship.
Although the Bears had made the playoffs under Armstrong and his predecessor Jack Pardee, those were the only two winning seasons since Halas' retirement as coach and he was looking for a coach who would bring the Bears back to prominence.
Shortly after his hiring, as recounted by Mike Singletary in 2006, Ditka called a team meeting.
During his tenure, the Cowboys made the playoffs eight times, won six division titles, three NFC Championships and a Super Bowl victory in 1977.
While working with the Cowboys, Ditka sent a letter to George Halas, his former head coach who was still owner of the Chicago Bears.
It was masterminded by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, with little oversight from Ditka; in fact, Ditka and Ryan had a largely adversarial relationship dating back to Ditka's hire as Ryan, who was already on the coaching staff when Ditka joined the Bears, felt that he should have been promoted into the head coaching position.
A member of both the College Football (1986) and Pro Football Hall of Fame (1988), he was the 1961 UPI NFL Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL).He was a three-sport athlete at Pitt, also playing baseball and basketball.He started all three seasons, leading the team in receiving in each, and also served as the team's punter.As a coach for the Bears for 11 years he was twice both the AP and UPI NFL Coach of Year (19).He also coached the New Orleans Saints for three years.