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Charles Haley (Finally) Joins Football's Immortals

Despite his obvious contributions to the game, and his being a defensive cornerstone for two Super Bowl winning franchises, Charles Haley had been repeatedly shut out in the Hall Of Fame voting. That ended last night.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Haley entered the National Football League as a fourth-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1986. A product of James Madison University, Haley was a four-year starter and two-time Division 1-AA All-American for the Dukes. His versatility as a defender was something that caught the eye of professional scouts. Many saw him as an all-around guy who could perform any task that a coaching staff would ask of him.

The 49ers first envisioned Charles as a role player in their defensive scheme. His initial duties revolved around his being a specialty outside rusher for San Francisco, a skill that Haley was able to maintain throughout his time in the league. He exceeded expectations during his rookie season, contributing a dozen sacks while earning All-Rookie honors. Haley earned the stating role as an outside linebacker for the 1988 season, it was a spot that that he would man for the Niners through the 1991 season. During his time in San Francisco, Haley earned Pro Bowl honors three times, All-Pro once, and he would win two Super Bowl rings. He was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1990. Haley had become a full fledged beast on the football field.

All was well on the gridiron, but outside the lines, life was hell for Charles Haley. Much has been made of his unusual behavior. There is no need for a full rehash of his problems, it will suffice to say that ongoing conflicts with the coaching staff and quarterback Steve Young led to his being traded to the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 1992 season. It was later discovered that Haley suffers from bi-polar disorder, and his behavior has been brought under control through medication. It has been this unfortunate behavior that is presumed to have impacted Hall of Fame voters over the past five years.

His arrival in Dallas gave the Cowboys the "missing piece" that they had been looking for. Haley moved from linebacker to defensive end where he continued to serve as an outstanding pass rusher. The change of scenery brought three more Super Bowl rings to Haley's collection. He also earned two more trips to the Pro Bowl as a Cowboy. In addition the 1994 season saw him garner both All-Pro and NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors for a second time. For his efforts on behalf of the blue and silver, Charles Haley was inducted into the Cowboys Ring Of Honor in 2011.

On Saturday, after being rejected five straight times, Mr. Haley finally received the honor that many feel is long overdue. He was announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame's Class of 2015. Eleven years after he walked away from the game, Charles Haley will once again stand in the spotlight, this time in Canton's Hallowed Halls. Whatever stain might have been on his football resume is now washed clean. Haley is a Hall Of Famer now, He stands on equal footing with those who have worn the star before him. At this year's induction ceremony, number 94 will become immortal. For fans of both franchises he played for, Charles Haley has always been just that.

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