"It's something I can't do at this time," Ditka told reporters outside his Chicago restaurant. "Iron Mike" said if the offer had been made to him five or six years ago, he would have accepted.
Republicans began scrambling for a candidate to run against Democrat Barack Obama after Jack Ryan dropped out of the race amid sex club allegations stemming from his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan. Ditka, who played for the Bears and later coached the 1985 Super Bowl-winning team, had been considered a dream candidate because of his widespread name recognition and overall popularity.
"I would have made a good senator because I'd be for the people," Ditka said.
Attention immediately turned to dairy owner Jim Oberweiss, who ran second in the March Republican primary, and John Cox, who sought the GOP nomination for Illinois' other Senate seat four years ago.
WMAQ-TV, Chicago, reported another name that has been tossed into the fray is singer Ted Nugent, a native of suburban Arlington Heights.