They haven’t suited up and stepped on the gridiron in years, but Saturday could be the biggest day in four former 49ers’ NFL careers.
Linebacker Charles Haley, cornerback Deion Sanders and defensive ends Chris Doleman and Richard Dent are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and hearing their names called would be the capstone to some remarkable careers.
Haley spent seven of his 12 NFL seasons with the 49ers, winning two Super Bowls with the team (Super BowlXXIII and XXIV). The prolific pass rusher went on to become the only player in NFL history to win five Lombardi Trophies.
Haley was drafted by the 49ers in 1986 and played with the team through the 1991 season. He later returned to San Francisco as a defensive end for two playoff games in 1998, and came back to play one final season in 1999.
During his first stint with the 49ers, Haley led the team in sacks every year and had four double-digit sack seasons. He totaled 12 sacks as a rookie and a career-high and NFC-leading 16 sacks in 1990.
Haley finished his career with 100.5 sacks and was twice named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year (once with the 49ers in 1990). He was a five-time Pro Bowler and named an All-Pro twice.
But perhaps equally as important as the gaudy stats, Haley was a winner. To go along with his record-setting number of Super Bowl rings, Haley played in six NFC Championship games and was a member of 10 division-winning teams. In every season but one, Haley’s team finished with at least 10 wins.
Sanders only spent one season with the 49ers, but it was a memorable one.
Arguably the best cornerback of all time, Sanders signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 1994 and helped the 49ers bring home their fifth Lombardi Trophy in a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
In that 1994 season, Sanders recorded six interceptions and returned them for an astounding 303 yards (50.5 yards per interception return). He brought three of those picks all the way back for touchdowns.
Sanders was AP Defensive Player of the Year, named First-Team All-Pro and played in the Pro Bowl while with the 49ers; in his career he was First-Team All-Pro nine times and an eight-time Pro Bowler. In 13 NFL seasons, Sanders recorded 53 interceptions (nine of which he returned for touchdowns), three kick returns for touchdowns, six punt returns for touchdowns and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of 1990s as a cornerback and punt returner.
Doleman played three of his seasons of his 15 NFL seasons with the 49ers (1996-1998), and the 6-foot-5 defensive end recorded double-digit sacks every year in San Francisco, including a team-high 15.0 in 1998.
Along with his 38 sacks in a 49ers uniform, Doleman also forced 11 fumbles, recovered six fumbles (one of which he returned for a touchdown) and had two interceptions.
Doleman finished his career with 150.5 sacks, which ranked fourth in NFL history at the time. Along with his productivity came durability, as he only missed two games over the course of his professional career. In all, Doleman made eight Pro Bowls, one of which came with the 49ers, was named First-Team All-Pro three times and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
Like Sanders, Dent only spent the 1994 season in San Francisco, but he was hampered almost the entire year with injuries.
Dent played in just two games with the 49ers, and he recorded as many sacks.
Dent, who spent most of his career with the Chicago Bears, finished his career with 137.5 sacks, had eight double-digit sack seasons, led the NFC with 17.5 sacks in 1984, led the NFL with 17 sacks in 1985 and was named Super Bowl XX MVP. He was named First- or Second-team All-Pro four times to go along with four Pro Bowl appearances.
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