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Spagnola: Hall Of Fame Shout Out For Charles Haley

Posted Jan 10, 2014


IRVING, Texas – It’s time, really past time, for Charles Haley to be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

         And here we go again, for seemingly the umpteenth time, Haley has advanced from the yearly 126 candidates to the cut to 25, and again on Thursday evening’s cut to 15.

         Now for cryin’ out loud, how about making it to the final five – into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his 10th year of eligibility?

         This is not a plea of common sense for a former Dallas Cowboys player. No, this is a plea for an extraordinary NFL player who deserves a place in those hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio, right there with Walter Payton and Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith and “Mean” Joe Greene and Bronko Nagurski and Bob Lilly and Lee Roy Selmon, or any of the other 280 men whose memories have been granted immortality for having played at such an uncommon level in the National Football League.

         This, for Charles Lewis Haley, born 50 years ago this past Monday, is so very long overdue.

         And so this struck me Thursday night when seeing once again – for the fifth time in a row, from 2010 to now 2014 – Haley advancing to the final 15, along with two more players submitted by the Seniors Committee, for ultimate consideration by the 46-member voting committee come Feb. 1, the day before Super Bowl XLVIII:

         Let’s not wait this time until the week of the Super Bowl to unabashedly campaign for Haley’s enshrinement. Let’s start right now, three weeks nearly to the day before those presentations will be made, extolling the virtues of these 17 men during that early-morning meeting of the exclusive voting members.

         And let’s get the dang argument right for a change, right for a guy who is not media-savvy enough and far too proud to campaign for himself. In fact, remembering back to the past couple of years when he’s advanced so close – into the top 10 last year before the field was whittled down to the final five – the hurt of rejection causing Haley to sort of clam up, to disguise his disappointment with nonchalance, as if this no longer matters.

         Believe me, deep down, if you can carve through his hardened exterior, it does matter to Charles.

         Now look, I know throughout his 13-year career Haley did not make a lot of friends in the media. He could be hostile, at times volatile in the locker room. He could be obstinate, and needless to say uncooperative at times. But nowhere does it state in the Hall of Fame criteria anything about having to be media friendly. That calls for those 46 members to objectively just do their jobs.

         Always thought it weird, but for some reason, somewhere along the line after Haley arrived at The Ranch right before the start to the 1992 season, we sort of bonded. Sort of. He’d pick on me, but I’d give him grief back. Unfortunately, Haley’s show of affection was far too many times coming up from behind me and picking me up off the ground, his way of goofing around. I’d have rather him punch me in the face.

         Funny this season, he came out to practice one day, and brought his mother along, and made an effort to introduce her to me, and I just couldn’t resist, saying to her, “Oh my gosh, so this is the saint of a woman who raised you.” She laughed, he grabbed his mom to lead her away telling me, “That’s enough from you.”

         We laughed.

         The criteria for Hall of Fame entrance also does not state that during your career you need to have made so many Pro Bowl teams or All-Pro teams or have a minimum of this many sacks, since that seems to be how defensive ends are always judged. So that Haley has just five Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections and six double-digit sack seasons, totaling 100.5 – 34 for the Cowboys during his five-year career here – should not diminish his accomplishments nor dull his credentials when compared to other defensive ends already in the Hall.

         And now no one can say, well, he’s not even in the Cowboys Ring of Honor, as if that was a qualification for anyone who ever had played for the Cowboys. Owner Jerry Jones erased that stigma in 2011, inducting him into the Ring that year.

         See, to me, and I’ve said this time and time again, especially back in 2009 when finally – finally – Bob Hayes was selected for induction, that this Hall of Fame is not necessary for those with the best stats or ones who had the best friends in the media. Absolutely not.

         This Pro Football Hall of Fame is there to preserve the history of the game, to make sure some of the great players, the great stories, the great accomplishments and the great games are passed on to generation after generation once those of us who lived through these experiences, who documented the best of the best stories, have long passed.

         This is where Charles Haley is unmatched in NFL history. He won three super Bowls with the Cowboys during his five-year career, and unquestionably was the last piece to the Cowboys defensive puzzle that came together with a mixture of his talent, his toughness and just his nature of refusing to lose. (You should have seen the hole his helmet made in the Texas Stadium locker room wall after the Cowboys lost the first two games of the 1993 season playing without contract holdout Emmitt Smith.)

         He won two more Super Bowls with San Francisco, his original team, having spent eight years in two separate stays with the Niners, who traded him after the first six seasons to the Cowboys because of his exhibited discontent.

         Two and three make five, the only player in NFL history to have five Super Bowl rings – one for each finger of a hand.

         Many others have won four, the majority of those guys are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and maybe only one of those still has an opportunity to win a fifth, that being current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, taking four Super Bowl rings into Saturday’s playoff game against his old team, the New England Patriots – meaning he’s still three victories away from that fifth ring … this season.

         Then there is his former Patriots teammate Tom Brady, owner of three, also three more wins away during these playoffs from his fourth ring. With Brady, never count out the possibility of a fourth or even a fifth. But then time is running short on both of these guys.

         And since these Super Bowl titles are getting passed around rather generously these days – OK, go ahead, knock that softball out of the park – there is a good chance no one coming along nowadays will win five Super Bowl titles as a player, especially not in this day of free agency when players are more apt to chase the almighty $$$$ than remaining with a title-contending team.

         So to me, Haley’s solo distinction must be preserved for posterity sake, somehow passed down to your children or your children’s children. And what better way than to land his bust in the Hall of Fame rotunda … at long last.

         This just makes so much sense to me.

         And this year, well, and not counting the two senior candidates, punter Ray Guy, maybe the best to have ever punted in the NFL, and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey, the Falcons all-time sack leader, just not sure there are that many slam-dunk candidates. Oh, maybe offensive lineman Walter Jones, maybe wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and then likely media favorite Michael Strahan, up for his second go-round. But after that, come on, none of the other guys in this highly select group of 15 own five Super Bowl rings, right? That distinction is all Haley’s, and who knows, maybe for all time.

So yes, it’s time, past time to do the right thing, and this is the exact time to start shouting it out from the highest mountaintop.

Charles Haley deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame!

Now get on with it.

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