Hall of Famer Chris Doleman was recognized on Friday afternoon for his courage and perseverance during his battle with brain cancer since being diagnosed a little over a year ago.
Doleman was honored at the 14th annual Merlin Olsen Super Bowl Luncheon by both the Vikings and Falcons, two of the three teams he played for during his illustrious 15-year career.
The defensive end who ranks fifth all-time with 150.5 career sacks was presented a painting by each organization, both of which included Doleman in his gold Hall of Fame jacket.
Doleman, who turned 57 in October, grabbed a microphone to express his appreciation to the Vikings, including Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren, both of whom also spoke about Doleman.
“Everybody who knows me knows I’m not short on words. I will say this here. I want to thank the Falcons family, [Falcons owner] Arthur [Blank] and his family, the Wilf family,” Doleman said. “I just got over brain cancer. I’m going to tell you right now, the thing that carried me through this … this time last year I was struck with [brain cancer]. I called Mark, he had given me his cell phone [number], I called him and told him I was diagnosed with brain cancer. Literally crying to him and he said, ‘Chris, you have to settle down. I can’t understand nothing you’re saying.’
“Let me tell you something, the Vikings are a family. I look at all the guys, the Vikings who have gold jackets … I’m so proud of every one of them,” Doleman added. “We always show up to every event, and that makes me feel very good, very special. Not only do we take, but we give back.”
Wilf and Warren also expressed their love and admiration for Doleman, who spent a decade in total in Purple and racked up 96.5 career sacks with the Vikings.
“Everyone here is a family, and that’s how we view it at the Minnesota Vikings, and I know all ownership feels that same way, that [all] of us – fans, players, partners, coaches – all of us are here because of the hard work, sweat and tears of our alumni, our players and particularly our Gold Jackets,” Wilf said. “And I have to tell you, one of the thrills of being involved in professional football is meeting and getting to know and love someone like Chris Doleman.
“He has been a true inspiration, and I know he’s had his challenges this past year, but we love him, we love his family, and all that you and all the Gold Jackets represent,” Wilf added with a nod to Doleman. “We love you, Chris, and we wish you only good things, and thank you for being the inspiration you are and for all of you being here today to recognize Chris, as well.”
Warren explained his personal respect for Doleman.
“Chris is part of our family, and we’re just honored to stand before you today,” Warren said.
“On behalf of Mark and Zygi and Lenny, the entire Wilf family, all of our Hall of Famers here, every person who considers themselves a Minnesota Vikings fan, we just want to tell Chris how much we love him, how much we love his family, how much we appreciate him.
“This is another testament in life that you need to count your blessings every single day,” Warren added. “And while you have breath, tell people you love them, you appreciate them, and leave more behind than what you take forward with you. So, Chris, congratulations on this special day.”
David Baker, the President and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was also on hand and praised Doleman for his bravery and spirit over the past year.
Doleman, who was twice given a standing ovation, spoke to Vikings.com in October when he gifted his Hall of Fame bust to the Vikings Museum.
“It’s very meaningful,” Doleman, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, told Vikings.com. “There are three icons when you become a Hall of Famer. One is the [gold] jacket. The second one is your ring, and the third one is your bust.
“To be able to give [the bust] to the team that drafted me, it means everything to me. I wanted them to have it,” added Doleman, who is one of 318 members of the Hall of Fame. “I want them to know how much I care about them. There are 310, 315 of us in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so to be able to share that with the club means so much.”
The annual luncheon honors Merlin Olsen, a defensive tackle who played 15 seasons with the Rams and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman gifted his Hall of Fame Bust to the Vikings Museum.