Chicago Bears Traditions

Bears in The Hall

Mike Ditka

Pro football hall of fame enshrinement speech
July 30, 1998

Thank you, thank you very much. My good friend Ed 0'Bradovlch (presenter) was very generous with his words. Ladles and gentlemen, I do stand beside you, in front of you today, with a great sense of pride, but a tremendous amount of humility. I didn't know how hard this would be but when I walked into this Hall today and I saw these men behind us who were the forerunners of us coming into the Hall this year, when I realize what Jack Ham and Fred Biletnikoff and my good friend Alan Page have accomplished in football, I am tremendously proud because it is a great honor but I am terribly humbled by it all, because I am not sure I truly understand it.

I appreciate you for your support. I want to thank some people and I hope you bear with me for a few moments. I think the most important people that have to be thanked in this situation. It is everybody, but it first starts with my mom and dad, Charlotte and Mike Ditka. My family, who have stuck by me, who have given me support, who have given me guidance, who have given me encouragement over the years and I really appreciate that. I want to thank all my friends from Aliquippa and from Carnegie and from Pennsylvania who are here and Chicago, I appreciate it.

I think the first thing I made a mistake, I should have thanked God because I have been fortunate, gang. He made me sound of mind and body and he has given me an opportunity to participate in the greatest game in the world for 27 years and that is pretty significant when you stop and think about It. And without him, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. I want to thank my teammates because they put up with a lot of crap from me and they supported me most of the time. I want to thank my opposition, I don't think they ever understood me but they really played hard against me and they really never asked any questions or gave any questions and I think that is important. I had so many great coaches, my high school coach, Carl Aschman started everything. I had so many people who worked with me back then. I went to Pitt, I got to know Coach Paterno very well but I got to know a coach named Jack Wiley, and Ernie Hefferle and John Michelolsen and then I went and saw Mr. Halas in Chicago and spent 6 years with him before I got to know a guy by the name of Joe Kuharich in Philadelphia for two years and finally ended up with the great Tom Landry in Dallas for four years. Now if you think you are not blessed when you have people affect your life like that, I think you are sorely mistaken and I guess I tested them all but it worked out pretty good.

I want to thank the organizations especially the Chicago Bears, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys for making my twenty-seven years in football something special. I want to thank the NFL for what it stands for, for the men who played he game for what it really is. It is a tremendous thing,gang. I don't know any other way to put it and as Fred (Biletnikoff) told you he loves the game and you got to love it. It is just the greatest thing, the greatest feeling not being up here is the greatest. Being able to play every day, to practice every day to be a part of it. To say that you played against Ray Nitschke, or your played against Doug Atkins or you knew Marion Motley. Any of this is what it is all about. In life many men have talent, but talent in itself is no accomplishment. Excellence in football and excellence in life is bred when men recognize their opportunities and then pursue them with a passion and I think that sums up what the players of the National Football League and NFL Hall of Fame stand for. They recognize an opportunity and they went after it. I have a lot of heroes in life and one of my heroes is a man named Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln had a little statement that he made about himself that I kind of think that it applies to me and I try to live by it, don't always make it, but I try. And he made a simple statement that says this, he said, 'I did the best I could, I did the best I knew how.' He said, 'I mean to keep on doing it that way right up to the very end.' He said, 'If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me will not matter.' He said, 'But if the end brings me out all wrong', he said 'ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.' Again, thank you and God bless you.