Chicago Bears to retire Mike Ditka's number, which they say will be the last

Malcolm Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The ultimate compliment a team can pay a former player is undoubtedly to retire their jersey, and the Chicago Bears have announced they will only retire one more-- a tight end that eventually became head coach.

Mike Ditka's association with the city of Chicago will always be primarily focused on winning Super Bowl XX in 1986 as head coach of the Bears, but he had quite the impactful career as a player twenty years earlier.

Ditka was selected 5th overall in the 1961 NFL by the Chicago Bears, and ultimately won Rookie of the Year honors his first season. He spent a total of five years with Chicago, revolutionizing the tight end position by showing that TE's can be effective receivers and not just run blockers in the trenches. In each of his five seasons, he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

In 1967, da coach was traded to the Eagles, and two years later, landed in Dallas. He finished his career as a player in 1972, then traded in his jersey and helmet for a clipboard and whistle when the Cowboys made him an assistant coach.

Fast forward to 1982, he was hired by George Halas as head coach of the Chicago Bears, and ultimately led his team to a Super Bowl victory. In 1988, Ditka became the first tight end to ever be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Last week, the Chicago Bears have made one more announcement regarding Ditka-- they will retire his jersey later this year. Ditka joins a long list-- the longest list in the NFL actually-- of retired Chicago Bears players, and the team says he will be the last one they ever retire.

The Bears will honor No. 89, Mike Ditka, similarly at halftime of the Cowboys game Dec. 9 at Soldier Field when he becomes the 14th player in franchise history to have his number put away. His will be the last according to Chairman George McCaskey.

"We have more than any other team in the NFL," McCaskey said. "After this, we do not intend to retire any more but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89."

The current list reads as follows:

#3- Bronko Nagurski (FB)

#5- George McAfee (RB)

#7- George Halas (WR/TE/DE)

#28- Willie Galimore (RB)

#34- Walter Payton (RB)

#40- Gale Sayers (RB)

#41- Brian Piccolo (RB)

#42- Sid Luckman (QB)

#51- Dick Butkus (LB)

#56- Bill Hewitt (DE)

#61- Bill George (LB)

#66- Clyde Turner (OL/LB)

#77- Red Grange (RB)

Will Ditka truly be the last jersey the team retires? That's hard to imagine, but unless rosters get downsized from 53 players, or the league starts using triple-digit jersey numbers, he might be the last for a while.

What are your thoughts? How does that current list look, and how do you feel about Ditka being the last?

MORE: Confidence Check: 2013 TE's and FB's | Is #54 is a lock for HOF? | Bears heart-felt statement on Urlacher

MORE: Chicago Bears X's and O's | Superfans | Roster Analysis

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