An elite pass rusher who was in the prime of his career, Charles Haley was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to an NFC rival, the Dallas Cowboys. Why would they make such a trade? The 49ers did so because Haley had become so difficult for teammates and coaches alike. It turns out that he acted this way because he had bipolar disorder. Haley, a Hall of Famer and the only NFL player who earned five Super Bowl rings, documents what it was like suffering from that condition and how he overcame it. He details what it was like to play for two championship organizations and the fights, transgression, and squabbles that marked his career.
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About the Author
Charles Haley earned five Super Bowl rings in his 11 years playing with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Jeff Sullivan is a columnist for DallasCowboys.com and the best-selling author of America's Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys. He lives in Texas. Jerry Jones is the owner, president, and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. He resides in Dallas, Texas. One of the best and hardest hitting defensive backs in NFL history. Ronnie Lott made 10 Pro Bowls and won four Super Bowls during his Hall of Fame career. He resides in Cupertino, California.
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Fear No Evil
Tackling Quarterbacks and Demons on My Way to the Hall of Fame
By Charles Haley, Jeff Sullivan
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Charles Haley with Jeff Sullivan
All rights reserved.
The Truth and Fiction of the Locker Room Stories
Okay, let's do this. I'm sure a lot of people reading this book want to know about all that crazy stuff I supposedly did — the locker room stories. I honestly don't know all of the stories out there. I don't. I know some folks are going to say I'm full of it, but I never listen to the radio, I hardly ever watch television, and I never, ever, ever read the sports section. People can say what they want, they can write what they want, and people can feel however they want to feel about me. I know the truth. I'm just a guy who lived in a frat house-like environment, which is an NFL locker room, and some former teammates — because of my actions toward them — chose to go out and tell these stories in an attempt to take me down a notch.
I didn't read that one book that basically started it all. You know what that guy's deal was? All he was doing was trying to sell copies. He didn't do any background work on any of the stories, he didn't confirm them with multiple teammates, and he certainly didn't talk to me. He didn't want to have anyone tell him anything different. That was always my biggest issue with the media in general. Even if they take the time to get both sides of the story, which they don't always do, they write whatever angle is the juiciest. What's going to sell? Charles pulling out his junk sells.
Now, that's not to say I wasn't crazy at times. I had some issues with teammates, including 49ers defensive lineman Jim Burt. We went at it a few times. There were some fisticuffs. The day before Super Bowl XXIV, we had this dinner. I was standing in the hallway outside the dining room, and he pulled my jacket up over my arms and headbutted me. He just snuck up behind me. I never heard him. He busted my lip pretty good. And when I was able to get my jacket off my face, I see a security guard standing right there. He didn't do anything. The guy just let Burt do that to me, so I was convinced I was set up. I've never spoken to Burt since, so I'm not sure what the deal was.
You know what, though? I'm a legend in people's minds. They have been embellishing other stories for a while. I wish I did half of the stuff that people say I've done. I have to tell you this, though: I had fun. The rules of engagement were, at least were supposed to be, what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. We were supposed to be a brotherhood. That was our home. No one was supposed to be telling stories to bitch-ass writers.
I have some stories, I have some stories that would blow some minds, but I'm not sure what ratting out teammates would accomplish. I'll tell you the stuff I did, my firsthand experiences, but why sell out a former teammate? Whether you like a guy or not, we went on that field together and bled, we fought as one, and when that's over, you should have the other guy's back. So, that's what we have. We have cowards who wait until we're no longer in that locker room together and then say what they want to say with their own little twist to it.
At least a guy like Chad Hennings — my teammate with the Cowboys, a heck of a defensive tackle and a former Air Force pilot — confronted me when we were playing. I respect that, and we're friendly now. We have done prayer breakfasts together. Yeah, I pushed Chad one time at training camp. We were in a third-story hotel room, and within seconds he had me hanging out an open window. If he pushed me at that point, or hit me, I was falling out and getting seriously injured. Sometimes I just needed to be reeled in.
I'm not sure anyone possessed the ability to piss off my teammates quite like I could. At practice I was once messing with running back Emmitt Smith pretty good. And he was not enjoying it. I was hitting him after the play was called dead, I was talking trash to him, I was sneaking up behind him in the huddle and hitting him in the nuts. Finally, Emmitt reached his breaking point and just grabbed one of my fingers and yanked. I was standing there calling him this and that and every insult you can think of, and he just pulls my ring finger out of the socket. That shit hurt. He broke it. Emmitt broke my finger, and it's still messed up to this day. Every time I see him, I remind him about it, and he just laughs and says, "Charles, you should have left me alone."
It's worth pointing out that while I was obviously unstable and dealing with some mental issues, the bipolar disorder first and foremost, my antics weren't just me being off my rocker. Some were calculated, as messed up as that may sound. My thing was that I pushed, I challenged guys. I wanted to know how far they could be pushed. My mind-set was that this would make them better players on Sunday.
My first season with Dallas in 1992, our defensive line coach was Butch Davis. Now, I like Butch, and he was a heck of a coach. He ended up becoming a head coach in both the NFL and college and deservedly so. I respected him as much as any position coach in my career. Still, he was like anyone else. If he pushed me, it wasn't going to end well.
After practices I would stay on the field and work with the younger linemen. And this often meant showing up late to Butch's position meetings. And he was always bitching about me being late. But it wasn't like I was sleeping or clowning around. I was working with my teammates, trying to make them better. Well, I was quickly becoming tired of his yelling. So one day I'm taking a shower after practice, and Butch is going on and on about I'm going to be late for the meeting. Hell with that. I kept showering, and he left and started the meeting. I finished my shower, wrapped a towel around my head, walked into the meeting room, and laid down on the floor — buck ass naked. He turned around after drawing some play on the board and certainly appeared shocked. He stormed out of the room.
This got Butch and Jimmy Johnson pissed at me. And I decided to shut down. I didn't talk to anyone for two weeks. Like no one, not my teammates, not my coaches. I came to practice, I played hard during the games, but I wasn't communicating with anyone. Screw them. We were playing Denver in early December, and I'm taking a piss before the game. Jimmy walks over to me as I'm finishing and says, "You keep this silent treatment shit up, and your career is going to end up with that piss of yours — down the drain." And he flushes the urinal and walks away. He was right, too. I wasn't hurting them by not talking, I was hurting my teammates, my defensive line guys who depended on me to break down film and work with them. I was being a world-class ass.
So yeah, I did a lot of stuff. I'm not playing myself off as the angel in this, but at least I have the balls to look somebody in the eye if I'm going to say something. That's the only thing I don't like about some of these stories. You have some unnamed source and you get Tom, Dick, and Harry to talk about it. Maybe Charles was a butthole to them, and this is the way they've decided to get back at him. Because once you put it in a book, it's there forever.
I don't care. At the end of the day, I don't care because the people who know me, and I hope the majority of those who played with me do, they know my character.
Then again, maybe I do care, and it's just easier to say I don't.
Hell, I didn't know who I was back then. Even today there are times when I don't know. Who the hell am I? Am I Charles, Chuck, or Charlie? I tell people there are three of me. Charles is the one that's stable, somewhat normal. Charlie is the sensitive one that cries a lot, and Chuck is the asshole. So when I say or do something crazy, when I regroup, I tell people, "That's Chuck, and he went that way, down the street. It's good now." I don't like Chuck. He's a bad dude. Charlie is okay, but Charles is the man I try to be. It just happened a lot less back during my playing career.
* * *
Early on with the 49ers, I remember going to a bachelor party. They had a bunch of strippers and they tied them up, ripped their clothes off, and then poured tequila all over them. Then they took turns licking it all off. I was like, wow, damn. I hadn't been exposed to much at that point, and now all of this stuff was suddenly happening. I remember who was there, and guess what, it's no one's damn business. For the record there is nothing like a bachelor party with NFL players in the 1980s. All of the drugs, alcohol, and naked women, no one would believe half of it.
I remember we went to Las Vegas — this was also during my first year or two with San Francisco — and some guys went out and bought cocaine and got busted. It was taken care of, and we were able to fly home without it going public. That night was a mess. Everything was easy. You didn't have to ask for anything; it was always there and it was constant.
There were guys doing steroids everywhere you looked. When the steroid guys would have to take tests, they would take a fake penis, put somebody's urine in it, and then squeeze that urine into the piss cup. This was before they would go and watch the guy taking his piss. I guess they just trusted dudes back then. Not a good idea.
I must have led the league in giving my urine to teammates because everyone was sure I wasn't taking anything. I was the smallest defensive lineman in the league. Hell, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is like 30 pounds heavier than I was for the majority of my career. You walk through an NFL locker room, and it doesn't take more than a few seconds to see who is taking performance enhancement drugs and who isn't.
A lot of my former teammates who told stories, they obviously didn't like me. Hey, I could say a lot of things about them that are 100 percent accurate, but I choose not to because we had a code: what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. I understand I was a hard man. I was an extremely hard, angry man. I attacked everything from their kids to their momma to them. There were no boundaries for me, and looking back, I understand why they did it.
But I was a sick man. I was dealing with an illness. And it made me do some crazy stuff. I was always pushing, I was always being aggressive, I was always trying to find the boundaries.
It didn't help that I was a clown by nature. I've been a clown my entire life, long before I was Charles Haley, the football player. I was the kid in first grade doing whatever I could to make people laugh. I love hearing people laugh; maybe it's a positive reinforcement kind of thing. It makes me feel good when I make someone laugh.
And I'm no stand-up comic, so I talk about people. I hone in on their weakness and make fun of it. A dude talks funny. Bam, I'm there with an impersonation. A dude has a big nose. Cue up the best Rudolph jokes I can think of. I didn't have a filter either. That was the problem. Busting someone's balls can be funny. Most of it is totally within the boundaries of a locker room, a group of buddies. But other stuff is best not spoken. I didn't understand that.
There are some stories about me that are just fantasy. I never ejaculated around any of my teammates — or on them for that matter. What the hell? You're going to tell me that a man is going to let another man ejaculate on him with no problem? I don't give a damn if I weigh 100 pounds. If some man comes up to me ready to burst, guess what? Before that happens I'm taking him down. I'd rather get my ass whooped than any situation like that.
Other incidents were misunderstandings — at least to me they were. Here's the thing, when you are bipolar and not taking medication, it's kind of like selective memory. I did a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff I'm certainly not proud of. When my kids, or someday my grandchildren, Google my name, those stories are going to be there. I hear people tell their stories about me. But this is the God's honest truth, the best way I can explain it: I remember every slight against me, what people did to me, but I don't remember a lot of what I did to others. I get different versions of different actions from my playing days, but more times than not, it doesn't match what I remember.
I think my biggest frustration is that I cared for a lot of my former teammates, then and now, and because of my issues, that probably was lost on them. You can take whatever you want from relationships, from being a part of a team. A lot of teammates thought I was crazy because I pushed them hard to win instead of realizing that I cared about them. I guess I didn't always show that, outside of a few guys — close friends like Ronnie Lott, Keena Turner, Leon Lett, and Tony Tolbert — so the rest of them probably have all different kinds of ideas and memories about me. But again, it is what it is.
When I see former teammates, I always apologize even if I don't remember doing anything to them. I just figured I must have. Most of them are pretty cool. I guess winning helps that when you look back. If we finished 6–10 every year and never won a Super Bowl, I'm sure teammates, coaches, everyone would maybe not be as forgiving. There was a means to my end.
Being a smart player helped me, too. Outside of my BS and clowning around, I talked a lot of football with my teammates, my coaches. It wasn't like I was crazy every day. I had control of me for the most part, particularly on the field. I remember Coach Walsh told me one time, he said, "Charles, we cut dumb players. Not because we don't like them, but dumb players cost you games with dumb mistakes. And if they are on the field with the opportunity to make a dumb play, that's on us as coaches. Even if a guy has potential, we cut them."
I wasn't going to be one of those guys, which is why I watched so much film. And by studying what every one of my teammates did, I could have a conversation with any of them about football. I could ask them questions about why they did this or that. I wasn't just running around the film rooms naked all day. I would pick and choose when to step out of my comfort zone. Well, I guess the bipolar chose. I'm just saying that there were a lot of good, productive days for me as a teammate. But those stories aren't told all that much.
I honestly viewed the world as being against me. My mind-set was that everyone woke up in the morning, collectively looked around nodding their heads, and thought, how can we screw Charles today? That was where the rage came from. It felt like me against the world.
And after I left the 49ers, and they did a kind of character assassination on me, that only escalated. They tried to say everything about me was negative, or maybe that's how it was communicated. They made everyone in the league fear me with these crazy-ass stories, a lot more than what actually happened.
At the time I don't think the 49ers wanted to see me succeed. They wanted me to fail, especially playing for a conference rival in the Cowboys. If I continued to be successful on the field for Dallas, that was going to reflect poorly on San Francisco's decision to deal me for a few draft picks, so they tarnished my reputation. I guess that's business, as they say.
I'm not mad about it any longer. I know those who made the decisions with the 49ers. They knew I could do a lot of things on the field to help the team, but they couldn't find a way to control me, and that's the bottom line. I find myself saying this a lot, but it's true: it was all about control. They couldn't control me, and sometimes I couldn't control me.
I don't know if my teammates, be it high school, college, or in the NFL, were intimidated by me. All I knew was that if any of them put their hands on me, we're going to settle this up regardless. That's how I was raised. You can lock the doors or whatever, I'm going to get your ass. As I mentioned, I wasn't one of the guys in the locker room. So that intimidation, or whatever you want to call it, helped me from a standpoint of them not being able to get close to me. That's important, too. I didn't want people to know what was going on in my mind. There was a lot of stuff going on in my head, and outside of Karen, my mother, maybe Ronnie, I wasn't going to confide in or trust anyone else. My teammates were there for football, not to be my psychologist.
For the majority of my NFL career, really from my second season in 1987, it was "Charles is out of control. Charles is not dealing with his issues. Charles is definitely not in charge of his emotions." I wish I could take some of that back.
Instead, I think I came to like the reputation and almost ran with it. I'm not saying it was all an act, just that, hey, it couldn't hurt for them to all think I was crazy. And that affected my ability to have friendships like the other guys did. I probably walked out of the league with only a handful of guys, definitely less than a dozen, who were friends. I rubbed a lot of folks wrong with my actions and words. That's what I regret. I can be a nice guy. I think if they knew me today, that would be a lot different.
I also regret verbally attacking coaches. That was beyond wrong. Those guys were the coaches, the ones trying to help us win, and I was always making their lives a nightmare. Even Coach Walsh probably had some frustration with me, though I was always on my best behavior with him.
Excerpted from Fear No Evil by Charles Haley, Jeff Sullivan. Copyright © 2016 Charles Haley with Jeff Sullivan. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Ronnie Lott 9
Foreword Jerry Jones 15
1 The Truth and Fiction of the Locker Room Stories 27
2 Growing Up in Gladys 43
3 Opportunity of a Lifetime 61
4 Welcome to the NFL 77
5 Self-Destruction 97
6 Moving to Big D 117
7 Going Back-to-Back with the 'Boys 135
8 Triumph and Tragedy 151
9 Back in San Fran 165
10 Pain and Gain 171
11 Living Bipolar 183
12 Hall of Fame Induction 205
13 Reflection 221