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Walsh used the first fourth-round pick from the Rams to grab Haley. After Walsh had spotted Haley in the film of the Georgia Southern game, he sent coaches Bill McPherson and Tommy Hart to Virginia. Hart, a former 49er lineman, played tackle on the James Madison practice field. Haley rushed at him for 20 minutes.
"Come the same way every time," Hart told Haley. "I'm going to do different things, but I just want you to come at me and react."
Haley kept beating Hart with a quick change of direction. "Holy moly, this guy could go," McPherson says now. "He was flying around, and he had some shake to him. I knew Bill would like him. I left there just hoping I'd be right about the guy."
He was. Haley has collected 25½ sacks over the past two seasons.
Wallace of Auburn was the Niners' next selection, with the second fourth-round pick obtained from the Rams. In 1988, Wallace beat out Bubba Paris for the starting left tackle job. He broke his leg in that season's Super Bowl win over Cincinnati, and now, fully recovered, he shares left tackle with Paris.
With their own pick in the fourth round, the 49ers chose Fagan, from Miami. He had gone from a clear first-round pick in the fall of his final season with the Hurricanes to a late-round prospect at best, after he blew out his right knee in the 1986 Sugar Bowl. Fagan had dragged his reconstructed knee around the country, failing one NFL team physical after another.
But the 49ers' physician, Michael Dillingham, told Walsh that Fagan's knee could be rehabilitated. That was all Walsh needed to know; even if he had to wait until 1987 to use him, Fagan was worth the risk. "Kevin was a special athlete," says Walsh. "If he ever got back near 100 percent, we'd have the equivalent of first-round talent. He turned out to be one of the best defensive linemen in football."
It took awhile, though. During the spring of 1986, Fagan came to Redwood City to work on the knee. On the first day that he was permitted to sprint, Fagan turned to backpedal. Pop! went the knee. "Like a rifle shot," Fagan says.
The kneecap had fractured. Dillingham used bone from Fagan's pelvis to graft the kneecap back together, and he used metal screws to secure the knee and promote a clean bonding of the bone. During that fall, when Fagan went to work out, the protruding screw heads caused him a good deal of pain. Performing arthroscopic surgery, Dillingham tried to unscrew them. He got one out, but the threads of the other screw were stripped.
So Dillingham opened up the knee again and chiseled out the screw. Two operations later, Fagan took the field at the 49ers' 1987 training camp. He became the starting right end in 1988, and in January was awarded a game ball for his six-tackle, one-sack game in Super Bowl XXIII.