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30-Nov-2017 17:31

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.

In his first season, Ditka had 58 receptions, introducing a new dimension to a tight end position that had previously been dedicated to blocking.

He also scored 12 receiving touchdowns, which was the most by a Bears rookie. He continued to play for the Bears for the next five years, earning a Pro Bowl trip each season. Many of the players from that team, including Ditka, were drafted by assistant coach George Allen, a future Hall of Famer, who was then in charge of the Bears drafts.

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.

Although the two men continued to work together, the relationship continued to deteriorate and with the Bears trailing by three touchdowns in a late season Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins that resulted in the team's only loss, Ryan finally snapped after Ditka, as he recounted in 2006 for NFL Network, told him that the defensive scheme was not working.

During his tenure, the Cowboys made the playoffs eight times, won six division titles, three NFC Championships and a Super Bowl victory in 1977.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys continued to win games although they did not win another Super Bowl while Ditka was there.

He was a unanimous first-team selection on the College Football All-America Team his senior year.