Haley: "I've started being the real man God meant me to be"

Talk of Fame Network

A smart man once said good things come to those who wait ... and Charles Haley waited 11 years – including six as a finalist – to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As you'd expect, Haley is delighted with the honor. But the former San Francisco and Dallas pass rusher has no problems with the time it took to gain it. In fact, he said waiting on the Hall for 11 years made him appreciate the achievement more than ever.

“I am so, so happy,” Haley said on the latest Talk of Fame broadcast. “I always thought my struggles that I’ve been going through – with the battles with bipolar (disorder), with me taking my medicine, with me not taking my medicine … When I staked my life up, God blessed me with this honor because I stopped being stupid and did what I was supposed to do with my bipolar. And I started being the real man that God meant me to (be). This is the platform that I could use to raise money for inner-city kids and do some good things with.”

Haley, who was so overwhelmed when first notified of his selection by the Hall’s executive director, David Baker, that “I felt like my legs were giving out,” said that waiting 11 years on a gold jacket caused him to reflect on a sometimes tumultuous career – and on what he might have done differently if he had the chance.

“One of the big things I wish I could’ve done different is. I wish I could’ve not been so harsh with my teammates,” he said. “And then the way I treated George Seifert (former 49ers’ assistant and head coach). He was a great coordinator. He believed in me. He believed that I could change and become a leader, a vocal leader, and I had in my mind I couldn’t. So that was the biggest thing right there.

“My teammates … it is with what it is. They know in my heart that I didn’t wish them ill. I wanted them to be better. Because I think the guy behind me should be as good as me. When guys don’t work hard for that potential I have no use for that. My thing is … I believe in my team. Without my teammates I could not have done this. Without Troy (Aikman), Emmitt (Smith) and Michael (Irvin) doing their job; without Leon (Lett), (Tony) Tolbert, Russell (Maryland) doing their job. Without Joe (Montana) doing (his) job, I wouldn’t be able to do mine.”

Haley was especially complimentary of Hall-of-Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott, who was more than a teammate at San Francisco. According to Haley, he was the biggest influence on his career.

"He took me under his wing," he said. "His heart ... My God, it don't get no bigger than that. He played hurt. He sacrificed. I watched all those guys do that (for) the love of the game. I ... LOVE ... THE ... GAME ... OF ... FOOTBALL. No matter, what I went through; no matter what physical pain, mental pain I went through ... I ... LOVE ... THE ... GAME ... OF ... FOOTBALL. and if they'd have told me to play for free I would've done that. But, thank God, they didn't."