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Mike Ditka on having No. 89 retired: ‘a culmination of all your dreams’

Mike Ditk1963.

Mike Ditka in 1963.

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Updated: May 24, 2013 3:49PM

Da Coach’s No. 89 is officially done. The Bears announced Friday morning that Mike Ditka’ number will be retired this coming season.

The retirement ceremony will take place during halftime of the Bears’ Monday Night Football game on Dec. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys.

“This is a culmination of all you efforts, all your ambitions and all your dreams,” Ditka told the Sun-Times. “When you’re growing up you don’t think about things like this or the Hall of Fame. You think about playing football, the game you love.”

Ditka’s No. 89 will be the 14th jersey number the Bears have retired joining, Nos. 3 (Bronko Nagurski), 5 (George McAfee), 7 (George Halas), 28 (Willie Galimore), 34 (Walter Payton), 40 (Gale Sayers), 41 (Brian Piccolo), 42 (Sid Luckman), 51 (Dick Butkus), 56 (Bill Hewitt), 61 (Bill George), 66 (Clyde “Bulldog” Turner) and 77 (Red Grange).

“It’s a great honor, considering the guys’ [numbers] who have been retired—Red Grange, Bronko, Sayers, Dick Butkus—I mean, I can go on and on—Bill George—there’s a lot of guys out there who are in the Hall of Fame and had their number retired,” said Ditka, who has become folk hero in Chicago since his playing and coaching days.

Ditka forever changed the tight end position. In six seasons with the Bears, Ditka went to five Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro player. Ditka was the rookie of the year in 1961 after being the fifth overall pick. As a Bear, Ditka had 316 receptions for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Ditka played on the Bears’ last two NFL title-winning teams. But he’s beloved for coaching the Bears in their Super Bowl XX victory in 1985, overseeing arguably the best team in league history.

Ditka led the Bears to 112 overall wins (106-62 in the regular season), six NFC Central titles, three NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl victory. His 106 regular-season wins rank second in team history, trailing only George Halas.

“Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “He’s an icon. The last time we won the championship Mike Ditka was our coach and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew it was the right thing to do.

“He revolutionized the tight end position as a player and grabbed an entire franchise by the throat as a head coach and willed it to victory in the Super Bowl. We have more retired numbers than any other team in the NFL. After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89.”

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