EAGAN, Minn. — Jared Allen had a historic season in 2011, as the former Vikings defensive end set the Vikings single-season sack record with 22.
But when he looks back at that incredible run, one of the things his remembers most is an interaction with Chris Doleman, the man whose record he passed.
Allen told Vikings.com on Wednesday morning that he will always remember the Hall of Fame defensive end for his generosity and integrity. Doleman passed away Tuesday night after a two-plus year battle with brain cancer.
"No competitor ever wants anyone to break their record, but he couldn't have been more gracious," Allen said. "He was there when I got 22, and he gave me a big ole hug on the sideline. Who he was as a man speaks more volume than who he was as a player.
"Honestly, just a solid human being. That's the saddest thing, is that the world lost a great person. Too many times people focus on the athletic accolades or what they're known for, and you forget that they are a human being," Allen added. "Chris was a phenomenal human being from what I knew of him. We shared a faith connection and he was always gracious and humble. The world lost a great person."
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman.
Doleman's former teammates, coaches and friend are shocked and saddened by the news of his sudden passing.
"I've [known] Chris Doleman since I was 17 years old. He recruited me when … they had those great University of Pittsburgh teams, and I was just a kid in Ohio looking for an opportunity," said Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter. "So, we were friends for almost 40 years. Truly, truly, we have lost a great man – and I have lost a friend."
Andre Patterson was the Vikings defensive line coach in 1999, which was Doleman's final season in the NFL. He recalled how Doleman carried himself like a professional even though he was a surefire Hall of Famer by then.
"Easy-going, but he would let out the big personality at times. He did like to be funny in the room," said Patterson, who is now Minnesota's co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. "Chris was a caring person, and he would take the young guys under his wing and help me coach them up.
"I try to carry that legacy on with our guys today, and that's why our guys do that today. For a guy that was already a legend by the time I got to coach him, he didn't carry himself that way. He still had an eagerness to learn and try to get better," Patterson added. "He didn't carry himself like he knew it all, and it was a tremendous honor to me that I got to coach him. Years later, he treated me like I had coached him for a lot of years. That meant a lot to me."
Doleman played for three teams over his legendary 15-year career, but he spent 10 of them in Purple with the Vikings. He racked up 150.5 career sacks, which ranks fifth on the all-time list during a career that also included five total seasons with the Falcons and 49ers.
Yet for as talented as he was in-between the white lines, Doleman was revered by his teammates and coaches off the field, as well.
Vikings Ring of Honor linebacker Scott Studwell, who played with Doleman from 1985-1990, was a guest Wednesday morning on KFAN's 9 to Noon broadcast with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen.
"Chris was a family guy, and he was good off the field," said Studwell. "He was good in the locker room, he was a good friend, he was a good teammate. We're gonna miss him."
Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel told Vikings.com that teammates kidded Doleman for bringing a briefcase to work but that his message was received loud and clear.
"I loved him in the locker room, just helping the young guys out and teaching them how to be professional," McDaniel said. "He'd carry a briefcase in and we all used to laugh and joke about it, but he was teaching a lot of the young guys that, 'Hey, this is your job now. Treat it that way.'
"He was great and as a teammate he was excellent," McDaniel added. "He kept the locker room lively, as Chris could only do."
Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman, a teammate of Doleman's from 1985-1987, said he was in "shock and disbelief" when he learned about his friend's passing. Allen and Patterson also used the same phrase when talking about Doleman.
"I'll just remember his laugh. He had a big, gregarious laugh," Coleman said. "He was a funny guy and made jokes about everybody, and we made jokes about him. We didn't pull any punches and that was a good, honest friendship and relationship that we all had.
"For the men that were in that locker room, whether you were a starter and All-Pro, or you were third-string and rode the bench or a punter or kicker, it didn't matter. If you wore the uniform, you were in that brotherhood," Coleman added. "And Chris was a true brother."
Coleman noted that he had thought about Doleman last week and was planning on calling him soon.
But with Doleman's sudden passing — along with the recent tragedy involving NBA legend Kobe Bryant — Coleman said it's yet another reminder of how fragile life is.
" 'Maybe he's doing OK so I'll give him a buzz later,' " Coleman thought last week. "Well, later may never come for a lot of us. All we have are those significant and special moments in our lives with the people we care about and the people that we love.
"The Kobe tragedy was one stark reminder of how precious life is," Coleman added. "And now to lose Doleman a couple days after, it's extremely tough. Not only was he a teammate, he was a friend."