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Charles Haley (Finally) Gets His Gold Jacket This Weekend

The 'final piece' in the assembly of the dynasty teams of the 1990s will finally assume his rightful place in Canton on Saturday. Welcome to football immortality, Mr. Haley.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The eleven year wait is almost over. The man who was the cornerstone of not one but two of the greatest football dynasties of the modern era in the National Football League is going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There has never been a doubt that Haley, on the field, was worthy of induction. A good argument can be made that he should have been a first ballot selection if his on the field efforts were the only consideration. On the gridiron he was an unstoppable force.

Haley was the disruptive difference-making defensive force for two dynasties. His five rings with the late 1980s 49ers and the 1990s Cowboys are the most in NFL history. He was twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Year and finished his career with 100.5 sacks.

Haley played twelve professional seasons and during ten of those his team, either the San Francisco 49ers or the Dallas Cowboys, won its division. During one amazing run, Charles helped lead his squad to six NFC Championship Games in seven years. Over his career, Haley's teams won over 70% of their games played. The man was a winner among winners.

As an individual player Haley was twice the NFC Defensive Player of the Year and he was named to five Pro Bowl teams. He earned All Pro honors with both the Niners and Cowboys and thanks to his membership on both teams rosters during their glory seasons, Charles Haley is the only man to have earned five Super Bowl rings. Football was good to him.

Charles was not nearly so good to football.

Few football players have known anger like Charles Haley has known anger.

Anger with teammates. Anger with coaches. Anger with opponents. Anger with the media. Anger with anyone and everyone who crossed his path during a football career that stretched almost three decades from the playgrounds of Virginia to Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The stories of his unpredictable outbursts and erratic behavior are what caused Haley to have an eleven-year wait before being voted into the Hall of Fame. For most of his life, Charles suffered from bi-polar disorder, his irrational conduct stemmed from mental health issues, and since being diagnosed with the condition he has spent the better part of his life struggling to to get his situation under control.

Gone is the Charles Haley who experienced conflicts with his coaches and had physical confrontations with teammates. In his place now stands a man who has made significant strides over the past decade and a half. He is able to control his outbursts thanks to quality mental health professionals and medication. The man making his acceptance speech on Saturday night will not be the same one who once struck fear into the hearts of opposing passers on Sunday afternoons, Haley is now a changed man, but he also admits he is still an emotional one, albeit one who has finally gotten those emotions under control.

."I know me. I get too emotional. I wasn't ready [for the Hall of Fame] all those other years. I was going through a lot of things. I couldn't get my medicine right. The highs and lows I experienced were massive. I could not control my behavior. God brought me the right psychiatrist, the right counselor, the right mix of medicine. I don't go that far up or down anymore.

"When you do get in, you forget about those five other years you had to wait. I'm so damn grateful. I didn't know if it was ever going to come. But my goal was never to go to the Hall of Fame. My goal was to win." - Charles Haley

For years fans were blessed to see Charles Haley the football player deliver some of the best in gridiron action. In Canton, Ohio the football world will finally see the best of Charles Haley, the man. It has been a long time in coming and Haley now realizes that the wait has been worthwhile. You can feel the emotion in his words.

"When Jerry asked me to go in the Ring of Honor, I told him I don't care where you put me — in the corner, wherever. I'm in the house. I feel the same way about the Hall of Fame. I used to tell kids there are only two things that people can't take away from you — your faith and your education. For me, it's now three — my faith, my education and the Hall of Fame, bay-bee."

Savor the moment Charles. Few have earned it more and fewer still have earned it under more challenging conditions.

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