Charles Haley was a key member of five Super Bowl championship teams with the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
Elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, Haley spoke this week on KNBR about Terrell Owens’ decision to skip the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, to instead celebrate this month at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“My thought was there should’ve been more people reaching out to him instead of criticizing him because you don’t know what’s going on in this young man’s mind,” Haley said. “I feel like the world’s been against me most of my life, so I know the battles I have to fight just to maintain that people do care about me. I never judge another man.”
Haley and Owens both attended Dwight Clark’s memorial service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, just prior to induction weekend at the Hall of Fame. They were teammates with the 49ers during the 1998 postseason and all of the ’99 season.
“I saw T.O. at Dwight Clark’s funeral, and I talked him and told him, ‘Hey, man, I don’t like what you’re doing to the Hall, but I’ll respect you. And when you come back to the Hall, I’ll be the first guy to hug you because we’re family. They can’t take it back. We’re family now,’ ” Haley said.
Owens got elected into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. Haley did not get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until his 11th year of eligibility. Haley’s wait can probably be traced to his actions off the field and his behavior in the locker room.
Haley does not hold any bitterness for his long wait. He said he used the induction ceremony to reward those closest to him, and he goes back to Canton annually to help him repair relationships and create new ones.
“I’ve been back every year, and I plan on going back every year,” Haley said. “Hey, it took what it took for me to get there. I’m telling you, I was so happy because at that point, my mom, who went to every game who drove, cried for me; all the coaches; all the players I played with; that was an opportunity to tell them, ‘Thank you.’
“It took all those people, the bad and the good, to make me the man I am. I wanted to give them their respect by letting them know how much I cared.”
Haley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002, three years after his NFL career ended. He is now a mental health advocate.
“By being in the Hall of Fame now, I get the chance to walk up to guys and say I regret some of the things I’ve done to hurt you,” Haley said. “That’s one of the biggest things in my life that I love about where I’m at now, I’m willing to go out of my way to let guys know my regrets of my actions.”