College Football and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (University of Pittsburgh) is the 2016 Walter Camp Distinguished American award recipient. . Ditka will be recognized at the Foundation’s 50th annual National Awards Dinner on Saturday, January 14, 2017 in New Haven, CT.
The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done. He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal. The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.
Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally-respected sportscasters Pat Summerall (2004) and Verne Lundquist (2014), all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin (2003), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982), and last year’s recipient, Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver.
“Mike Ditka is an American football icon,” said Walter Camp Foundation president Robert Kauffman. “He has done it all as a player, coach and commentator. More importantly, he cares deeply about the sport of football and helping those who have made it so great.”
A native of Aliquippa, Pa, Ditka attended the University of Pittsburgh where he starred in three sports (football, basketball and baseball). Following his collegiate career, Ditka was selected in the 1961 NFL (Chicago Bears, 1st Round – 5th selection) and AFL (Houston Oilers, 1st Round -8th pick) drafts.
A member of both the College Football and Pro Football halls of fame, Ditka was the NFL Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys. He was named to both the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
He was an NFL champion with the 1963 Bears, playing for the venerable George S. Halas. Halas was also honored by the Walter Camp Foundation as its “Distinguished American” in 1980.
Ditka is a three-time Super Bowl champion, playing on the Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI team as well as winning as an assistant coach for the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. As a head coach, Ditka led the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX – a 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots.
Ditka served as head coach of the Bears for 11 seasons (106-62, .636) and was a two-time NFL Coach of Year (1985 and 1988). He also coached the New Orleans Saints for three years. Ditka is one of just two people to win a NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach.
Following his retirement as head coach, Ditka has been a television commentator and analyst, and has appeared in several sitcom television shows. Most importantly, he has been involved in several philanthropic activities, including The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which focuses on the humanitarian side of post-football related issues, which include coordination of social services to retired NFL players who are in need.
Walter Camp, “The Father of American football,” first selected an All-America team in 1889. Camp – a former Yale University athlete and football coach – is also credited with developing play from scrimmage, set plays, the numerical assessment of goals and tries and the restriction of play to eleven men per side. The Walter Camp Football Foundation – a New Haven-based all-volunteer group – was founded in 1967 and it is celebrating its 50th year in 2016-17. The organization’s mission is to perpetuate the ideals of Camp and to continue the tradition of selecting annually an All-America team and honoring deserving individuals.
Distinguished American recipients
2016 – Mike Ditka, University of Pittsburgh
2015 – Tim Shriver, Yale University/Special Olympics
2014 – Verne Lundquist, Texas Lutheran
2013 – Joe Theismann, Notre Dame
2012 – Tom Osborne, Hastings College/University of Nebraska
2011 – Floyd Little, Syracuse University
2010 – Chuck Bednarik, Pennsylvania
2009 – Robin Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana
2008 – Len Dawson, Purdue
2007 – Frank Broyles, Georgia Tech
2006 – Dick Vermeil, San Jose State
2005 – Arthur Blank, Babson
2004 – Pat Summerall, Arkansas
2003 – Bill Walsh, San Jose State
2002 – Regis Philbin, Notre Dame
2001 – New York City Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service Personnel
2000 – Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I
1999 – Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio)
1998 – Steve Young, Brigham Young
1997 – Steve Largent, Tulsa
1996 – Dick Ebersol, Yale
1995 – Keith Jackson, Washington State
1994 – Paul Tagliabue, Georgetown
1993 – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.
1992 – Carm Cozza, Miami (Ohio)/Yale
1991 – Alexander Kroll, Rutgers
1990 – Tex Schramm, Texas
1989 – Richard Kazmaier, Princeton
1989 – Burt Reynolds, Florida State
1988 – Y.A. Tittle, Louisiana State
1987 – Weeb Ewbank, Miami (Ohio)
1986 – Tom Landry, Texas
1985 – Bob Hope
1984 – Maj. Gen. Bill Carpenter, Army
1983 – Tom Harmon, Michigan
1982 – Eddie Robinson, Grambling State
1981 – Harold “Red” Grange, Illinois
1980 – Alexander Haig, Army
1980 – George Halas, Illinois
1979 – David “Sonny” Werblin, Rutgers
1978 – James Crowley, Notre Dame