He was mean. He was angry. He was a machine. He was a terrifying football player…. He was and still is, Charles Haley. Drafted in 1986 from a school recognized for its academics (James Madison University), Haley was a 2x All American and a starter his whole college career. San Francisco decided to draft him in the 4th round and he immediately made an impact on the defensive side of the field. Success and conflict followed Haley throughout his career. He won and won big with the 49ers helping bring the team 2 Super Bowl rings, but had trouble off the field. The trouble he had was due to being Bipolar, and it was an issue that made him edgier as a player. His troubles led him to being traded by the 49ers due to conflicts with their coach and QB. A new chapter for Haley started in Dallas and he helped the franchise bring in an additional 3 Super Bowl rings, bringing his personal total to 5.
I wanted to touch up on Haley’s success but also touch on his issues. Being someone diagnosed as Bipolar, Haley states that now he takes his medicine and encourages players with the same issue to do the same. His problems led to alcoholism, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it must’ve been for him to find himself. As an alumni he has been and currently is willing to help younger athletes. The difficulty of accepting that you have a problem is step one. Doing something about that problem after step one is just as tough. We all as people do not want to accept that we have an issue, and it’s hard to hear someone say we are broken, or damaged, or are not “normal”. The rage, the anger, the crazy antics, and so forth was not Charles Haley. He accepted who he was and is building who he is. His issues made him great in a sport where macho is still not man enough. The crazy was the right antidote for each team he was on.
The Hall of Famer is the man we never got to see until now, because back then, young Charles Haley was defining himself as a great player and ignoring finding himself. Football does this to you, but so does success. The drive, the passion, and determination of becoming great. Uncertainties in life can make you say no to the things that can help. I’m glad Charles found his way and I had a chance to learn about his past. Sometimes as a kid I saw that player and thought, man he’s good at rushing the QB. Never once did I realize his battle. Not once did I think he was tormented. Now I know, and can respect his legacy even more.