Better Late Than Never: Ex-Cowboys DE Charles Haley Receives Hall of Fame Nod After Being Snubbed For More Than A Decade
“Super Bowls are something I always competed for. It was a standard with the 49ers. We were expected to win. Ronnie [Lott], Keena [Turner], Joe [Montana]…those guys rubbed off on me. The only thing I could think about was being a champion. That’s all I knew. When I got to the Cowboys, Jimmy [Johnson] was pushing guys, but they didn’t know how to win. They didn’t know how to prepare. I’m blessed that I had the chance to be around both guys I could learn from [49ers] and guys I could teach [Cowboys].”
– Charles Haley
Charles Haley’s career on the football field embodies every definition of success. The proud owner of five Super Bowl rings from stops in San Francisco and Dallas, Haley’s teams won an astounding 71.3 percent of their games. Along the way, Haley proved himself as a pass-rusher extraordinaire, tallying 100.5 sacks in just 169 games while playing outside linebacker and defensive end. His 11 postseason sacks are also impressive, ranking fifth on the NFL’s all-time leaderboard.
His off-the-field testimonial is of a different variety, and of such powerful connotation as to delay an otherwise well-deserved honor. Whether it’s fair or not, the fact that Haley had to wait eleven long years to be officially placed in the ranks of the football immortals is due solely to his troubles away from the game.
Obtaining enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a science of inexact measurables. Anyone proposing that voters look exclusively at each player’s production on the field is, more likely than not, hopelessly delusional. Where people are present, emotions are ever a factor.
While fans have spent the last decade debating whether Haley should be remembered as a 49er or a Cowboy, voters in Canton have struggled with memories of their own.
Were the 46-person selection committee made up of former players, Haley would likely have been a first-ballot nominee. The fact that the panel is comprised exclusively of media personnel necessitates the acknowledgement of a different perspective.
In the world of journalism, the strongest impressions of players are often made through personal interaction. For many writers, interacting with Haley was an exercise in patience more than anything. His personality was often of such abruptness as to leave the listener cringing. A player steeped in the gospel of hand-to-hand combat while on the field, Haley displayed the ability to be profane, if not downright vulgar, on more than one occasion off of it.
He was eligible for enshrinement as early as 2004. Instead, Haley will make his long-awaited speech in Canton, Ohio tomorrow evening while facing a crowd of family, fans, and peers, where past imprudences will at last be forgotten by football’s greatest gods.