LAKE FOREST, Ill., May 24 (UPI) -- Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka will have his No. 89 uniform number retired by the Chicago Bears this season.
The ceremony is scheduled halftime of the Dec. 9 game when the Dallas Cowboys visit Chicago. Ditka played for the Bears from 1961-66, including the 1963 NFL championship season, and ended his playing career with the Cowboys in 1972. Ditka coached Chicago from 1982-92, including the Super Bowl XX champions.
"Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about," team Chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement Friday. "He's an icon. The last time we won a championship Mike Ditka was our coach and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player.
"The organization knew (that retiring his number) was the right thing to do."
Ditka in 1988 became the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will be the 14th player to have his number retired by the Bears. He was drafted fifth overall by Chicago after playing college football at Pittsburgh. He was also voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
He was selected to five Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Bears. In 1961 he was UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of the Year and was twice (1985, '88) selected the UPI NFL Coach of the Year.
"It's a tremendous honor," Ditka said. "It's something that I didn't anticipate or expect, but it's a great honor. When you think of all the great Bears players who have had their jerseys retired, I can't say that there's any greater honor. I'm very humbled by it and very thankful that George made the decision to go ahead and do that because it's really great."