Charles Haley comes full circle as Hall of Famer

Sure, Charles Haley might have been a whirling dervish wreaking havoc wherever he chose during his playing days, and his nearly 12-minute, rousing and rollicking induction speech Saturday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame might have mimicked his playing style, as he hit on all points of the compass.

But Haley, the lone player in NFL history with five Super Bowl rings (two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Dallas Cowboys), made salient points at every stop.

The second of six new inductees to address the gathering, Haley used his turn at the lectern to speak out on mental illness (he was diagnosed as being bipolar after retirement), as well as campaigning for former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to join him in Canton, before he spoke in a bad Jerry Jones twang to thank the Cowboys owner.

DeBartolo presented Haley in a video segment and said trading Haley to the Cowboys was "the biggest mistake I made as an owner" before talking about the time Haley was kicked out of a Monday Night Football game. DeBartolo made his way to the locker room to check on Haley, who was upset, sat at his locker and peeked up at the diminutive owner.

"Oh my God, Mr. D.," Haley said in amazement, "they ejected you too?"

Haley, an integral part of two dynasties in the Niners' teams of the '80s and the Cowboys' teams of the '90s, said he wanted to tell that tale but had to adjust on the fly after DeBartolo stole his story. He spoke about DeBartolo's taking him golfing at Pebble Beach and allowing him to drive the golf cart.

"You know I don't know how to play golf, right?" Haley said.

As such, he mindlessly drove the cart onto the green before being told not to by the party playing behind him. But Haley did it again, and the offended golfer behind him again asked him to keep the cart off the green.

"I said, 'Man, if this guy comes and opens his mouth again, I'm going to knock him out,'" Haley recalled. "So I start to turn around, and Eddie and them go, 'Hey, you can't drive up on the green.' I said, 'All this [stuff] is green.'"

That was Haley in a nutshell, on and off the field: combative yet introspective, jovial yet mercurial, outspoken yet shy. And now, a Hall of Famer.

Among the other stories he told:

In endorsing DeBartolo for Canton: "When you're thinking about Hall of Famers, you're thinking about winning. Mr. D., he won five Super Bowls ... if the standard is winning, why is he not here, you know? I pray that Mr. D. comes in the Hall of Fame sooner than later."

In thanking his ex-wife Karen, who diagnosed him as being manic depressive in 1988: "I thought she was just [like] a group of guys that wanted to always put me in this box. We had problems after that, and I never really listened, nor did I step up to the plate and do something about it. My life spiraled out of control for years -- for years. But today, guys, I get to go back into the locker room to my teammates and tell them ... the mistakes that I made, and that the only way that you can grow is that you've got to ask for help. I walked in the league a 22-year-old man with a 16-year-old inside of me screaming for help. And I would not ask for it. I would not ask for that help. But today, guys, I take my medicine every day, and I try to inspire others to do the same, and that's because I finally listened."

On his mother's influence on him as a player: "She's smiling over there, but she's mean, I'm telling you. I tell guys all the time ... the reason I got quick feet is because she put that switch back on my legs."

On his four brothers, George, Lawrence, David and James, being role models: "They beat me up all the time. They would not pick me to play in any of the games. They would always call me Clumsy and Big Foot. I used to go to church, praying they'd get hurt, fall out. It never happened, so I changed my prayer. I said, 'God, give me something to be great at.' And it was football. The rabbit got the gun, then."

On Jerry Jones' opening the Cowboys' stadium for a bone marrow drive when Haley's daughter, Brianna, was fighting leukemia: "When I got traded to the Cowboys, the first handshake I received was Jerry Jones'. I got off the plane, there was eight cameras waiting, I couldn't see nothing, just a hand sticking out ... it was a five-minute ride to the hotel. It took an hour-and-a-half, and I know everything he ever done in his whole life."

On his college coach, Challace McMillin, at James Madison: "He should have took me home the day I walked in. I was hell on wheels."

Haley also reiterated his love for the late Bill Walsh and again told how Walsh, two days before he died, reached out to Haley and asked how he could help him. Haley also mentioned George Seifert, Jimmy Johnson, whom he referred to as "Zulu," and Barry Switzer.

"My God, guys, he's a hoot," Haley said of Switzer.

Haley also said position coach Tommy Hart "taught me how to be a pass-rusher. Because of Tommy Hart, I'm here today."

He mentioned specific teammates, a who's who of Cowboys and Niners greats in Tony Tolbert, Leon Lett, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Eric Wright, Keena Turner and Guy McIntyre.

"I am truly blessed, guys," Haley said. "I played with some of the greatest players ever in football. And I learned a lot. And the one thing I learned from these guys is unselfish play.

"Team matters. We need to go back to that. It's not about individuals -- it's about team. That's the only way we can have success."