ARLINGTON, Texas – Charles Haley knows a thing or two about coming to the Dallas Cowboys with a little controversy attached to his name.
His message to second-round pick Randy Gregory: Just go play.
In August 1992, a few months before Gregory was born, the Cowboys traded for Haley amid reports that portrayed the perennial All-Pro as a malcontent in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room.
Haley responded by filling the Cowboys' need for a dominant pass rusher. Dallas won three Super Bowls in the 1990s to bring its franchise total – and Haley's total, including his time with San Francisco – to five. His legacy as a champion and missing link to the Triplets' glory years has led him into the Cowboys Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In Gregory, whose stock plummeted to Day 2 last weekend due to off-the-field issues, Haley sees a tremendously talented pass rusher drafted to the same team that supported him during challenging times.
"I just can't believe we got him in the second round," Haley said at Sunday's "Taste of the NFL" event at AT&T Stadium. "The Cowboys got a steal. You can't have enough pass rushers."
Gregory, considered by many to be this year's best defensive end prospect, fell to 60th overall following an NFL.com report in which he acknowledged testing positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combine in February.
Gregory was forthright with NFL teams, including the Cowboys, before the draft and insists he has cleaned up his act for good. He'll wear Haley's old number 94.
"It's about maturing, and I've done, believe it or not, a lot of maturing over the last few weeks. I feel like this staff can help me get to a whole new level with that," he said. "I'm just so excited to work with them. I really am."
He must be, if the now-famous tattoo of a star on his arm is any indication. Gregory tweeted this Tuesday along with his tattoo photo: "Its the beginning of something good!" "'This journey is a marathon, not a sprint!!'"
Haley, a fourth-round pick by the 49ers out of James Madison in 1986, expects Gregory to start his journey "with a chip on his shoulder."
"Just like a lot of us that got drafted later, you come in with an attitude ready to work," Haley said. "Most guys who come in as a first-rounder, they think they've already got it. They think they've already achieved something. He's got something to prove.
"He's got an owner who's going to not only stand with him, but stand in front of him and take some of the blows. And Jerry (Jones) is not alone. He has a family of ex-players that love the Dallas Cowboys and are willing to come back and help."
Haley's old teammate, fellow Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame inductee Michael Irvin, has already developed a friendship with Gregory and challenged him to carry himself as a professional.
Haley's advice to Gregory would be to focus on his job and tune out the chatter that surrounds any high-profile draft pick who has made mistakes.
"I had a coach named Bill Walsh who said, 'All the dumb stuff that's outside, when you walk into this house, you leave it out there because it's going to be out there when you get there,'" Haley said. "That's the attitude that I tell these young men to take."