Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s first professional football contract was for … $12,000.
“I was the (fifth) player picked in the draft — $12,000 with a $6,000 signing bonus,” Ditka told Gus Frerotte during the second part of this week’s “Huddle Up with Gus” podcast.
Ditka recalls playing at Pitt, where he was named an All-American in 1960 before being drafted by the Chicago Bears.
“I figured I’d play linebacker when I got to the pros,” Ditka said. “They drafted me, and I went and met (team owner George) Halas, and he said, ‘You’re going to play tight end.’ I said, ‘What the hell is a tight end?’”
Ditka caught 56 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns — the yards and TDs ended up being career highs.
“I made All-Pro, and the next year (Halas) wanted to pay me $14,000. I said, Coach, that’s taking a cut. I said I wouldn’t sign for a penny less than $18,000. As I soon as I said it, he opened the drawer and had a contract for $18,000.”
Coming Wednesday: Part 3 with Mike Ditka