By Doug Doughty
While Dennis Haley was the most celebrated football player in his family, having been on three NFL rosters, he’s quick to mention the achievements of his dad. Salem resident Ken Haley, a football star when he was at then-Addison High School in Roanoke, died Saturday while playing golf.
“He grew up in Roanoke City and played at Addison High School,” Dennis Haley said. “My wife put together a sports book of all his newspaper clippings at Addison, and later at Bluefield State.”
Roanoke World News writer John Black referred to Ken Haley as “Haley’s Comet” after he ran for four touchdowns and tossed two touchdown passes against Campbell County
“He played basketball and football and then, later in life, when I was growing up, he took up tennis,” Dennis Haley said. “He was a heck of a tennis player. He played in all the local leagues. I heard that he played basketball and football, but I grew up watching him play tennis.”
Not surprisingly, Ken Haley later took up golf and was on the golf course Saturday at Great Oaks when he suffered a heart attack from which he was unable to survive. He would have turned 71 in December.
“I picked up golf early on because I grew up in Salem with a bunch of my buddies,” Dennis said. “And then I passed it on to him. We played together a lot.”
Ken Haley had played four times last week, walking on occasion.
“This was totally unexpected,” said Dennis, a standout linebacker when he played for the University of Virginia and a member of state football and basketball championship teams at Salem High. “If he wasn’t feeling well, he wouldn’t have been out there.”
Dennis Haley discounted an old newspaper tale that, at his father’s urging, he would take piano lessons on the Saturday morning after Friday night football games.
Ken Haley is survived by his wife, Andrea, and an older son, Darren, who will be 53 this fall. Dennis, who lives in Christiansburg, will be 40.
“My dad owned his own business as a general contractor and was one of the first black business owners in the Roanoke Valley,” Dennis Haley said. “Nobody in our family wanted for anything,”