Ditka hos­pi­tal­ized for heart at­tack

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Sports - BY HOWARD CO­HEN hco­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

“Iron Mike” Ditka, the sto­ried Chicago Bears coach who once suf­fered a heart at­tack while coach­ing 30 years ago, had an­other one Wed­nes­day while play­ing golf in Naples.

But re­ports say Ditka, now 79, has good prospects to sur­vive this heart at­tack. He re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized Satur­day morn­ing near his Naples home. He could be go­ing home early next week where he will work on re­hab, ac­cord­ing to Chicago’s WGN 9.

“He’s Iron Mike … what would you ex­pect?” for­mer foot­ball player and now mo­ti­va­tional speaker Jar­rett Pay­ton, 37, said on Twit­ter. Pay­ton is the son of Wal­ter Pay­ton, one of Ditka’s great­est play­ers who helped guide the Chi- cago Bears to a Su­per Bowl XX vic­tory in 1985. The se­nior Pay­ton died in 1999 at 45 of a rare liver dis­ease.

In 1988, Ditka re­turned to work 11 days af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack. He was the head foot­ball coach for the New Orleans Saints from 1997 to 1999. In 2012, he had a mi­nor stroke.

Be­fore Ditka was a coach, he was on the field as a tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadel­phia Ea­gles and the Dal­las Cow­boys in the 1960s. Ditka’s touch­down re­cep­tion in Su­per Bowl VI helped cat­a­pult the Cow­boys over the Mi­ami Dol­phins’ 1971 team in the Jan­uary 1972 cham­pi­onship game in New Orleans. The feat would make Ditka the only head coach in Su­per Bowl his­tory to have scored a touch­down in a Su­per Bowl as a player.

Dol­phins’ coach Don Shula would ex­tract re­venge by guid­ing his Dol­phins to a per­fect sea­son later that year, win­ning Su­per Bowl VII in Los An­gles in Jan­uary 1973.

For years, Ditka has had a home in Naples and has lent his name to the an­nual Mike Ditka and Jim Hart Celebrity Golf In­vi­ta­tional that is held pair­ings party. The golf tour­na­ment has served as a ben­e­fit the Foun­da­tion for the Immokalee Child Care Cen­ter.

“It’s about the kids, noth­ing else,” Ditka told the Naples Daily News dur­ing the 17th an­nual tour­na­ment in 2016.

In 1988, the same year as his first heart at­tack, he was the first tight end to be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

BILL HABER AP

Hall of Famer Mike Ditka is the only head coach to have scored a touch­down in a Su­per Bowl as a player.

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