Darren Woodson was a rookie when Charles Haley was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. Haley quickly made an impression on Woodson. It wasn’t a good one.
"I was getting taped and I'm on the table and he wants to get taped, being the old vet," Woodson remembered. "We had some words and almost had a scuffle, and everybody broke it up. The next day he walks up to me, he says, 'I love your attitude. You got a little feistiness about you.' And that was it."
As Haley gets ready for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday as the only player with five Super Bowl rings, the stories about Haley are legendary, be it with the Cowboys or the San Francisco 49ers.
He made the Hall of Fame because of the Super Bowl wins, the five Pro Bowl selections, the two All-Pro teams, the two defensive player of the year awards and the 100.5 career sacks. But it's what Haley brought to the Niners, with whom he won Super Bowls XXIII and XIV, and the Cowboys, with whom he won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX, that helped lead him to Canton, Ohio.
"The craziness," former Cowboys guard Nate Newton said.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said on more than a few occasions that the Cowboys could not spell "Super Bowl" before Haley arrived. The Niners were tired of Haley's act and sent him to Dallas, who needed a pass-rusher the way a 6-year-old needs ice cream.
They were aware of what they were getting, but Jones was more than willing to take the risk. He developed an affinity for Haley.
"I had him stick a helmet up about a foot and a half from me in a sheetrock wall in the middle of the locker room," Jones said. "I had to basically look deep right then and know that if I walked over and grabbed him around the waist and said, 'Let’s all calm down here,' that he was going to calm down. And I knew he would because I had some good experiences with him."
The Cowboys largely let Haley be Haley, and he helped deliver Super Bowls.
When Woodson arrived, he kept hearing how the Cowboys needed a pass-rusher. Newton was entering his seventh season with the Cowboys at the time and knew they needed a pass-rusher.
But teammates said Haley brought "some dog" with him to a defense that needed it.
"We had a lot of guys that could play the game, but he was the guy who was unafraid to say what he felt," Woodson said. "And a guy that spit on you while he was talking, but he was always the guy that just wasn't afraid. He didn't back down from [then-Cowboys coach] Jimmy [Johnson]. He didn't back down from any of the coaches."
The respect of his Super Bowl wins in San Francisco carried weight with the players. They listened. And Haley taught. He spent countless hours on the field with defensive linemen such as Leon Lett, Tony Tolbert and Tony Casillas in helping with their pass rush. He taught Woodson the importance of hand placement as the safety blitzed off the edge.
"When Charles first walked in and we were getting ready for practice, he ran down a scouting report from Troy [Aikman] on down to the sock man," Newton said. "He could tell everybody a little bit about their game and let you know right away that it was, 'As crazy as I am, don't take me for a mental midget as far as being a football player.'
"He knew football and he knew he had a look. He had a scouting report on just about anybody on offense that you can name. That was Charles. He was smart. Sometimes, he played crazy, but he was smarter than you think."