One Viking in. One Viking waiting.
The Class of 2012 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced Saturday afternoon and former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman was one of the six players selected, while longtime teammate Cris Carter is left waiting for his call to Canton.
Speaking with the NFL Network, which carried the induction ceremony, Doleman said, “I’m blown away by it – I really am. This is just a big surprise. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and it couldn’t have happened in a better way. I watched with my entire family here – cousins, aunts and uncles – and it was just wonderful.”
Doleman was selected along with four other modern-era players – center Dermontti Dawson, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, running back Curtis Martin and offensive tackle Willie Roaf. The senior committee selected Jack Butler to be part of the Class of 2012.
“Chris Doleman had the ability to deliver the big play when you needed it. Teams had to keep an eye on him because they knew it was coming, be it in the beginning, middle or end of the game," said fellow Vikings Hall of Fame defensive lineman John Randle. "He was capable of making that big play. As a young guy learning the NFL game from him, he did so much for me. He taught me how to be a pro on and off the field. He was quiet on the field, a leader without speaking. It was his presence that influenced games. The way he studied the game and showed his teammates the way to prepare and be a mature player made a big impact on me.”
The list of inductees came as somewhat of a surprise, since it was widely speculated that Carter, who has been a finalist the last few years, was finally going to get inducted. There was also a groundswell of support for coaching great Bill Parcells and former Rams/Steelers running back Jerome Bettis to get enough votes to get into the Hall, but both of them fell short as well.
Doleman played 15 seasons in the NFL, including two stints with the Vikings. He was named to the Pro Bowl eight times and was fourth on the all-time sacks list when he retired. Doleman was voted into the Vikings Ring of Honor last year.
“He was a true leader on the field. Chris was relentless in his attack and he was an unselfish player," said fellow Vikings Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel. "He didn’t care who got credit as long as the job got done. Many times he would take on the double team freeing the other D-linemen to make a big play. He was a complete player – he was a great pass rusher and equally as good defending the run. In my opinion, to be a great player you have to be able to do everything well … and Chris did them extremely well.”
Doleman's former defensive line coach, Paul Wiggin, agreed.
“Certainly Chris has been worthy of this honor for a long time. His sack numbers are just a part of it," Wiggin said. "Even more impressive, he had what we referred to as a ‘hat trick,’ which was the sack, the strip of the ball and the recovery of the fumble; probably more so than anybody in football, including Reggie White. There’s probably no player that had more speed combined with body lean as far as being an outside rusher. He had incredible balance and body control to be able to stay on his feet and arch himself back into the quarterback, which was how he was able to create so many fumbles and big plays.”
Those 10 modern-era players who were among the 15 finalists that didn’t get selected were Carter, Parcells, Bettis, guard Will Shields, wide receivers Tim Brown and Andre Reed, linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley, defensive back Aeneas Williams and former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
A panel of 44 media members vote on the players to be inducted. The induction ceremony is scheduled for August in Canton, Ohio – the site of the annual Hall of Fame Game festivities.