FORT WORTH, Texas – During their stay in Fort Worth last Friday for their game against TCU, the Northern Arizona soccer team had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet with former Dallas Cowboy and San Francisco 49er defensive end Charles Haley. The meeting was organized through head coach Andre Luciano, whose friend coaches Haley's daughter's youth soccer team, which also includes former Cowboy greats Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith's daughters.
"I was talking about our season and being a warrior with my friend and Charles Haley is perhaps one of the greatest defensive linemen in the sport," Luciano said. "We thought he'd be a good speaker to come in and talk to our team about being a warrior on the field. He was very colorful in the way he presented it."
Haley, a fourth-round pick out of James Madison by the 49ers, has the distinction of being the only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and in November, he will be inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
In the midst of a slow start to the season, the Lumberjacks picked Haley's brain on how he dealt with difficult situations or what he did to get out of slumps. Haley also fielded questions about his most memorable moments of his career, his biggest influences and how he brought his intensity to the field.
"I got the deepest inspiration from him," said sophomore Jordan Stenger. "I got an intense drive, a willingness to keep moving on even after a couple of losses. He told us to personally be proud of the player that you are, to play for our teammates as much as possible and to always find the motivation in any situation."
As the Lumberjacks head into the start of the Big Sky conference portion of its schedule beginning on Friday at Northern Colorado, Haley's speech may be the spark that springboards the team.
"He was super motivational and he's given me a bite for conference," said senior Chelsea Bednarz. "He's going to be a big influence and I took away from his speech that every time you step on the field, you're either in or you're out. You have put every ounce of effort and energy you have into the game. We have to be ready to fight, bring it and don't hold anything back."
Haley had the reputation of being an aggressive player during his career, but while meeting with the team though, he showed a different side of himself.
"I thought he was going to be more intense, but he was really happy and nice," Bednarz said. "But you could tell that once he got on the field, he became really intense. I was so pumped up to meet him."
In addition to his speech, Haley also took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with the team. All together, it was an experience that none of the players will ever forget.
"It was very, very humbling," Stenger said. "It was an amazing experience. I'll definitely never ever forget this."