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My old friend Jim cracked a deadpan one-liner as we watched Dallas Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley trot off the field, sans his helmet, in between plays during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season.
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"He's retiring again," Jim quipped.
Had to chuckle and give Jim some props for that one. At the time, Haley had become noted as much for his "retirements" and subsequent "comebacks" than for his prowess on the football field. Michael Jordan and Felix Trinidad have nothing on this guy: he was the Unretirement King before unretiring became cool.
After the Cowboys defeated the Steelers, Haley indulged in his favorite postgame tradition. He retired. This lasted until 1998, when Haley unretired for one final time and came back for one last brief stint with the 49ers.
But there is another football-related distinction for which Haley probably would rather be remembered - he has more Super Bowl rings than any player, with five. He earned two with the 1980s 49ers and three with the 1990s Cowboys dynasty squads.
If you're looking for the coach or player who has the most Super Bowl rings, he proudly wears the red, white and blue of the New England Patriots. But it's probably not who first comes to mind; strength coach Mike Woicik, who was on the Dallas staff during its glory years in the 1990s, leads everyone with six.
But alas, the coach with the most rings is, in fact, Mr. Personality himself, Bill Belichick, who earned two of his five rings as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.
Had his heavily-favored Patriots not lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants, 17-14, Belichick and a few of his players would have moved into some elite company. Belichick would have joined Chuck Noll as the only other head coach with four rings, and players such as Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk would have moved into the four-ring club, but now they'll have to wait until at least next year.
If the Patriots are fortunate enough to win the Super Bowl in 2009, Brady and a few friends would move into a tie with former teammate Adam Vinatieri, who one-upped his ex-Patriots after management decided the man who kicked two Super Bowl-winning field goals for their organization was too expensive to keep when he hit the open market as a free agent.
The kicker signed with AFC rival Indianapolis and, after the Colts overcame a huge deficit to beat the Patriots in the AFC title game last year, he won his fourth ring when the Colts beat the Bears in the Super Bowl.
So in the spirit of honoring multiple Super Bowl-ring bearers, here is a quick top 10 list of the most Super Bowl rings by a player:
1. Charles Haley, 5 rings. He who retires with the most Super Bowl rings is, well, still retired. At least until we hear otherwise. But this defensive end was fortunate and talented enough that his services were coveted by both the 49ers and Cowboys during the peak of their Super Bowl prowess, and he has five rings to show for it.
2. Joe Montana, 4. The architect of San Francisco's four-Super Bowl dynasty, Montana's postseason heroics became the standard by which other quarterbacks are judged.
3. Terry Bradshaw, 4. Although he beat Montana to four rings by guiding the vaunted Steelers to four titles, he slips to No. 3 only because there's a real chance he might be better remembered for his nutcase broadcasting antics on Fox than for his football pedigree.
4. Adam Vinatieri, 4. You could make a good case for crediting - or blaming, whichever you prefer - Vinatieri for starting New England's run of dominance in this decade. It all started with a 45-yard field goal amid a driving snow storm in the "tuck" game, and continued when he ran on the field as time expired and drilled one through the uprights to beat the Rams for New England's first Super Bowl win.
5. Bill Romanowski, 4. Romo spat, cheap-shotted and 'roid-raged his way to four Super Bowl rings, two each with the 49ers and Broncos. The former linebacker now makes a living selling "supplements."
6. Franco Harris, 4. The hard-running Harris was a staple of the great Steelers teams, and he was named MVP of Super Bowl IX after rushing for 158 yards and a touchdown in a 16-6 win over the Vikings. Harris also earned a place in NFL lore with the famed "Immaculate Reception" in 1972.
7. Ronnie Lott, 4. The longtime anchor of San Francisco's secondary, the hard-hitting Lott, a nine-time All-Pro, was the equivalent of the quarterback of the defense in the 49ers' four Super Bowl wins.
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8. Matt Millen, 4. Now if he could just get that NFL team president thing down - the Lions have the worst record in all major professional sports since he took over - Millen might have quite a legacy in the NFL. As it is, he is the only player to have won rings with three teams, doing so with the Raiders, 49ers and the Redskins.
9. Lynn Swann, 4. "Swannie," as he is now affectionately known in his new career as an affable sideline reporter for ABC, became the first receiver to be named Super Bowl MVP when his game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch helped Pittsburgh beat the Cowboys 21-17.
10. John Stallworth, 4. Stallworth, perhaps Pittsburgh's most dangerous big-play threat during its string of Super Bowl wins, probably is best remembered for a then record-tying spectacular 75-yard touchdown catch in the 35-31 Super Bowl XIII win over the Cowboys.