Bang. Bang. Just like that, two of the greatest football players in the history of the National Football League came to El Paso in the space of two weeks and entertained us. Jerry Rice, perhaps the greatest NFL wide receiver ever, spoke about his career with the San Francisco 49ers at the Gala preceding the Sunland Derby on March 27. Charles Haley, a defensive lineman who owns five Super Bowl rings, spoke about his career at a brunch preceding KROD’s Sports and Health Expo last Saturday, April 10.
The two are as different as day and night. Rice is well-spoken and well dressed. Haley is down to earth in both speech and dress.
BUT BOTH have a lot in common otherwise. Both enjoyed mingling with the locals, happily posed for photos and gave stirring speeches. And both showed disdain for present day sports and athletes.
Rice said he always wanted to be a role model for kids and acted that way. Now, he said, there are drugs and other problems and took special aim at Michael Vick and Tiger Woods.
Haley said NFL football isn’t a man’s game anymore. He said players used to play with injuries. “Now if a player has a hangnail he asks to sit on the bench,” he said. He puts a lot of the blame on new rules. He said quarterbacks are over-protected and he doesn’t agree with the rule against chop blocks.
HALEY HAS a special connection with El Paso because his son, Charles Haley Jr., will probably be on the UTEP football team next fall. Haley wants his son to be a “dog.” “Dog” in NFL lingo is a guy who is aggressive. “There are a lot of players with talent but the ones with ‘dog’ are the ones who succeed,” Haley said. He says he has confidence his son will step out of his spotlight and into his own with the Miners.
DURING HIS career Haley, 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, was on two Super Bowl championship teams at San Francisco and on three title teams with the Dallas Cowboys. He had high praise for both the 49ers’ Bill Walsh and the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
“Mr. Walsh was the smartest coach in all of football,” he said. As for Jones, Haley says, “When I got to Dallas I was depressed over being traded and had my head down when I got off the plane. When I looked up there were all these bright TV lights shining on me and Mr. Jones standing there welcoming me. He’s a lot like Bill Clinton. When he walks into a room he goes around shaking everyone’s hand. That’s the kind of a person he is.” He thinks Joe Montana is the best quarterback ever but had praise for John Elway. Haley had 100 sacks during his career and got to hit Elway. “Boy, was he tough,” Haley said. “You could feel it when you hit him. And what a great arm.”
HALEY SPENDS a lot of his time with kids. He goes around the country raising money for teams and camps and preaching his gospel of how the game should be played. And he wants parents to take an interest in their kids. “My dad had to work at two jobs so he didn’t attend many of my games,” he says. “I resented it and didn’t speak to him for a long time. But I got over it and now we’ve got a good relationship.” His mother? She was the tough one. “My father later in life had a leg amputated and he would lie around the house,” Haley said. “My mother got him a cane and made him get up and start moving.” Haley says she got on him, too. Just recently she gave him a good swat, he says. I guess we know where Haley got his “dog.”
Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at email@example.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com