The Vikings organization — from its ownership to coaches, legends, current players, staff members and fans — is grieving the loss of Chris Doleman, who passed away Tuesday after a courageous battle with brain cancer that lasted more than two years after its diagnosis.
Doleman faced his unfair fight with remarkable grace and grit. He was 58.
The team and its ownership released the following statement:
The Minnesota Vikings express our deepest sympathies to Chris Doleman's family and friends upon his passing. Chris was a great example for players past and present, as he embodied all the best characteristics of a Viking — resilience, toughness and a competitive spirit. Chris always carried himself with dignity and class. Vikings fans worldwide will greatly miss him.
— The Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family
The No. 4 overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, Doleman transitioned from linebacker to defensive end in his second pro season.
A prolific career followed, with Doleman blending on-field intensity and a robust personality every step of the way. He inspired teammates to do their best and commanded respect from foes who tried to slow him down.
He was usually more successful in his endeavors than opponents were in theirs, as evidenced by his 150.5 career sacks that rank fifth in NFL history.
Doleman's total includes a whopping 21 in 1989 when he led the NFL and helped Minnesota set a franchise record with 71 team sacks.
The 21 sacks in one season are tied with fellow Hall of Famer Reggie White's output in 1987 for the fifth-most by a player in a single campaign and 1.5 shy of the record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2001.
Mark Gastineau (with the Jets in 1984), Jared Allen (2011 with the Vikings) and Justin Houston (2014 with the Chiefs) each recorded 22 sacks for personal career highs.
Doleman was instrumental for three Vikings defenses that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed three times (1988, 1989 and 1993).
He led the Vikings in sacks in five separate seasons and tied for the team lead once. He recorded 10-plus sacks eight times over the course of his 15 NFL seasons.
Doleman also had a penchant for stripping the ball, forcing 45 fumbles and recovering 24. He caused four or more fumbles in six separate seasons, including 1987 when he led the NFL with six.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman.
Team success accompanied Doleman's accomplishments. He helped squads make the playoffs 10 times, including the 1987 Vikings that advanced to the NFC Championship. He earned six selections to the Pro Bowl as a Viking and two more (one as a Falcon; one as a 49er) and was a First-Team or Second-Team All-Pro selection by the Associated Press five times.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame named Doleman to the Team of the Decades for the 1990s and enshrined him on Aug. 4, 2012.
Doleman was inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor on Nov. 14, 2011. This past fall, he proudly attended the Vikings Ring of Honor induction of former teammate Steve Jordan.