After Fred Dean was selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, it was considered only a matter of time until Charles Haley joined him.
That time came on Saturday, as Haley joined the 49ers’ first situational pass rusher as bound for Canton, Ohio. Haley was a finalist for the Hall of Fame five times before breaking through to be included in the induction class of 2015.
“I can’t describe how I felt, but the one thing that I do know is that I get to share this with my teammates, and I believe some of the greatest men, some of the greatest coaches,” said Haley, 51, a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
“For me, that’s what makes this special. Individual awards have never been one of the things I believed in. I believed in team, but God, I have a new team -- all the guys in the Hall of Fame. I’m just very, very, very happy.”
Haley is the only player in NFL history to play on five winning Super Bowl teams. He played on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the 49ers in his first six NFL seasons. With his trade to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992, he helped swing the balance of power in the NFL. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in Haley’s five seasons in Dallas.
Haley’s behavior with the 49ers became so erratic and disruptive, which led to the 49ers sending him to Dallas. In 2010, Haley revealed he was taking medication after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"The biggest mistake I made, or let happen, was trading Charles Haley," former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo told CSNBayArea.com in 2012. "If we don't trade Charles Haley, we win another Super Bowl. There's no question in my mind. It was a mistake and I should've stepped in. I know he had some problems with some people but we could've solved that.”
Haley had a particularly rough relationship with coach George Seifert, and Seifert acknowledged in 2012 he should have found a way to keep Haley with the 49ers.
"As I look back at it now, in hindsight, I was a young head coach," Seifert said. "I reacted. There were some tough things going on with Charles. But if I'd been a head coach with more experience I could've figured it out and found a way to get it done."
Haley told CSN Bay Area’s Mindi Bach on Saturday that he owes Seifert a lot of credit for helping him get into the Hall of Fame. They spoke at the Super Bowl in 2012 and again at a 49ers Hall of Fame dinner, Haley said.
“Told him I love him, because he taught me so damn much as a defensive player because he was micromanager,” Haley said. “He made me study film. I love him. I told him there was nothing he could to do ease my pain.”
Haley, a product of James Madison, was selected by the 49ers in the fourth round of the 1986 draft. Bill Walsh envisioned Haley in the same role as Dean, who was a key component as an outside pass-rusher in the 49ers’ first two Super Bowl titles.
“Bill was, to me, he was a man of few words,” Haley said. “He called me up after my rookie year and said, ‘It’s your job to lose.' And I walked up to his office and I told him, ‘I ain’t losing that damn job.’
“Coach Walsh, when I was getting ready to be traded or whatever – I went to Stanford and he had practice going, and he took time out to sit down and talk to me. He followed me my whole career, even on his death bed. He called me and talked to me. He always wanted to know, ‘Charles, what do you want to do? How can I help you?’ I haven’t had that many people in my life that did things like this.”
Haley said Walsh would be the person to introduce him into the Hall of Fame if he were still alive. He told DeBartolo in 2012 that he would be the person he selected to present him, but Haley was noncommittal on Saturday.
“The two owners that I had, Ed DeBartolo and (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones, are very, very special to me,” Haley said. “If coach Walsh was alive, he would be the guy inducting me because he did so much for me, I just can’t explain. So I’ll have to sit down and think about it. But in my heart, the two owners I had are the greatest, and it’s going to be one. We’ll see when I get to Canton, I guess.”