In football it’s common to hear the phrase “It all stars up front.” But when Chris Doleman was on the field, it all stopped up front. With a physically imposing frame and relentless desire to make impact plays, Doleman was a dominant pass-rushing defensive end who made a career out of sacking the quarterback.
Football is a game that celebrates teamwork more than statistics, but if there is a statistic that captures the mind of football fans, it’s sacks. And there weren’t many players in Vikings history or NFL history who accumulated more sacks than Doleman.
It is for that reason, among others, that Doleman will become just the 19th player in franchise history to be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor during a ceremony at halftime of the October 23 contest against the Green Bay Packers. Induction into this elite class of Vikings is the highest honor the organization can bestow upon an individual and Doleman’s dominance along the defensive line and in the offensive backfield makes him a qualified member of this group.
Selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft as an outside linebacker, Doleman was moved to defensive end early in his career because the Vikings defense transitioned from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 scheme. After his first two NFL seasons, Doleman had just 3.5 sacks. But the move to defensive end eventually paid off for Doleman because he developed into one of the best pass-rushers of his era, recording 150.5 career sacks and 44 forced fumbles in 15 seasons.
Doleman began and concluded his career with the Vikings, but also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. His breakthrough season came in 1987 when he tallied 11.0 sacks and six forced fumbles for the Vikings. Doleman’s best season came two years later in 1989, when he recorded a franchise single-season record 21.0 sacks. During his first stint with the Vikings (1985-1993), Doleman earned six Pro Bowl berths and three First-Team All-Pro honors.
Doleman played for the Falcons from 1994-1995 and then for the 49ers from 1996-1998, accumulating a total of 54.0 sacks in five seasons and also earning a Pro Bowl berth with each franchise. Doleman then finished his career with the Vikings during the 1999 season, registering 8.0 sacks and helping the Vikings advance to the Divisional round of the NFC playoffs. In 10 total seasons with the Vikings, Doleman registered 96.5 sacks, 31 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries, making him one of the best defensive linemen in the history of a franchise with several Hall of Fame linemen.
In total for his career, Doleman accumulated eight Pro Bowl selections, three First-Team All-Pro honors and he was also named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Second-Team, joining fellow defensive linemen Warren Sapp, Neil Smith and Bryant Young (Cortez Kennedy, John Randle, Bruce Smith and Reggie White were on the First Team).
Doleman’s production and dominating presence over 15 seasons has placed him in an elite fraternity with the Vikings Ring of Honor and it will also likely place him in consideration for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.