CANTON, Ohio — They may be the oddest couple in one market in a single Hall of Fame induction, pro football or otherwise.
One was a polished Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame, the other an undersized linebacker at unheralded James Madison.
One ran away from defensive backs, the other ran around offensive linemen and through quarterbacks.
One played with poise, the other like his feet and hair were on fire.
But there Tim Brown and Charles Haley were on the same stage on Saturday, a Raider and a 49er forever attached at the hip in the Class of 2015.
“To have a 49er and a Raider go into the Hall of Fame is always a great thing,” Brown said. “It has has been a pleasure, man. Charles is little different guy, you know. But at the same time, when you put the pads on and say ‘Hut-hut,’ he’s the guy you want lining up with you.”
Said Haley, “Tim always wanted to be a 49er, but he couldn’t get out of his contract, that’s what it was.”
“Tim is a good guy, man,” he went on to say. We’re polar opposites of each other. He’s very conservative, and I’m off the chains. We’ll put it together like that.”
Often controversial but never dull, Haley spent eight seasons as an excitable leader of the 49ers’ formidable defense. He also played five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, with whom he won three of his record five Super Bowl rings.
The 51-year-old Haley was choked up at the outset before he lightened the mood with a golf joke. He singled out his former wife, four children, mother, father, four brothers, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and ex-Cowboys coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer among others.
Haley was especially profuse in his praise for the late 49ers coach Bill Walsh and owner Eddie DeBartolo, who introduced him at the ceremony.
“I had the greatest coach ever, Bill Walsh,” Haley said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, but guys, he was more to me. He followed me my whole career. … Two days before he died, he called me still asking me, ‘What can I do to help you?’ And I will always love him with all my heart. He was really special to me.”
Haley took the opportunity to lobby on behalf of DeBartolo for Hall of Fame induction.
“Mr. D, he won five Super Bowls,” Haley said. “He presented five [Hall of Fame] players. I won five. If the standard is winning, why is he not here, you know? I pray that Mr. D becomes the Hall of Fame sooner than later, guys.”
Haley also addressed his fight against against mental illness and the need to seek assistance. “But today, guys, I take my medicine every day, and I try to inspire others to do the same,” he said. “And that’s because I finally listened, and thank you.”
Brown played with the Raiders for all except his 17th and final season. When he retired after the 2003 campaign, he ranked second in receiving yards (14,934), third in pass receptions (1,094) and third in touchdown catches (100) in league history.
Brown credited family members, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and several assistants.
“If not for Lou Holtz, I would not have won the Heisman Trophy,” said Brown, 49. “I would not have been a first-round draft pick. I probably would have been drafted, but I just would have been [another] guy.
“I’m going to enjoy this honor. But when I wake up on Monday, I’m really going to enjoy this honor.”
Haley has another date with destiny next month, when he will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame.
“We’ve had quite the amazing week here,” Brown said. “It has been only two days, but it felt like almost a week with Charles. I’ve known him quite a while, but you cannot be within earshot and not know who Charles Haley is. He’s going to let the world know.”