Mike Ditka backing Pat Hughes over Mark Kirk for Republican Senate nomination in Illinois

Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka is backing the little-known Patrick Hughes for the Republican Senate nomination in Illinois.

In a statement released Thursday by the Hughes campaign, Ditka praises the candidate's "mainstream values" and pledges to help any way he can.

Hughes says he is humbled to have the support of the former Bears coach and player.

Hughes is a Hinsdale real estate developer. He's up against U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk for the Senate nomination.

Kirk has angered many conservatives by supporting "cap and trade" legislation on global warming, backing abortion rights and supporting some gun control measures.

Da Coach isn't backing the favorite.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, a longtime conservative who stumped with Sara Palin during the 2008 presidential election, has endorsed little-known developer Patrick Hughes over GOP frontrunner Mark Kirk in the race for the U.S. Senate.

"I pledge all my support to Patrick Hughes and I will help him in any way I can," Ditka said in a statement released Thursday by the Hughes campaign. "Patrick Hughes stands for the same mainstream values that Mike Ditka stands for. Patrick Hughes knows who he is and what he believes. He knows that Washington is not the answer to all of our problems today."

Ditka's endorsement is a clear snub of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the favorite for the Republican nomination. The North Shore Congressman has come under fire from the right for not being conservative enough.