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Ditka Is a Standout for Chicago

Nov. 26, 1963 - If George Halas gets his Chicago Bears into the NFL’s championship game, he will owe one of his players, Mike Ditka, a particular debt of gratitude. Ditka, 23 years old and in his third season as a pro, has become a tremendous asset to the Bears. His remarkable effort on a big play in Pittsburgh Sunday enabled Chicago to retain its Western Conference lead. In the fourth period, the Steelers took a 17-14 lead over the team that twice had defeated the defending champion Packers this year. Bill Wade, the Bear quarterback, had just been thrown for a loss, and it was second down, 36 yards to go, the ball on the Chicago 22 with 5-and-a-half minutes to play. Wade dropped back to pass and threw to Ditka, who made a diving catch at his 45-yard line. Three men from the Steeler secondary — Glenn Glass, Clendon Thomas, and Willie Daniel — closed in on the 230-pound Bear tight end. All had shots at Ditka, but he fought them off with his tremendous power and continued goalward. But his effort had tired him, and Thomas caught Ditka at the Steeler 15. Roger Leclerc soon kicked a field goal that enabled the Bears to tie the score and stay ahead of the Packers by half a game in the standing. “I was so exhausted,” Ditka said later, “I thought I was going to black out.” Coach Buddy Parker of Pittsburgh said, “We were all right until he pulled off that play.” The play was typical of this athlete, who has fine speed for such a big man, good moves, and intimidating aggressiveness.

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