Charles Haley's shining moment is coming at a time when the 49ers released Aldon Smith after his fifth run-in with the law since joining the organization as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Haley and his presenter, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, spoke about Smith to Clark Judge from Talk of Fame Network while in Canton, Ohio, for Haley's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Haley has gotten to know Smith in recent years and worked with him from time to time on his craft as a pass-rusher.
“He’s me,” Haley said. “When I came into the league, there was a 10-year-old inside of me screaming for help but was afraid to ask for help. I didn’t get help until after I was done with football. I was always wanting help but was afraid to get it.
“It hurts me because I feel I let the kid down. I wasn’t there when he needed me. I have to also understand that he has to take responsibility, too. He knew I’d be there within 24 hours if he needed me. He didn’t call out.”
Haley’s behavior led to the 49ers trading him to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. DeBartolo has repeatedly stated that he regrets that move that, in essence, shifting the balance of power in the NFC to the Cowboys. Haley won two Super Bowls with the 49ers and three with the Cowboys. Haley revealed in 2010 he revealed he struggles with a bi-polar condition.
DeBartolo saw a Haley-like player in Smith, who recorded 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons before suiting up for just 18 games the past two years due to off-field issues.
Said DeBartolo, “I feel so bad for him. He could’ve been another Charles Haley.”