Chris Doleman is still getting used to the idea of being a Hall of Fame player. Five days after finding out about the honor, he's been too busy to fully digest the meaning of it all.
"It's still very fresh; it's still raw," Doleman said Thursday in a quick return trip to Minnesota.
"There's a couple things that happen when you see your name on the screen (announcing the decision). You get a couple calls and then your phone just literally goes into some kind of convulsions. You've got phones calls, e-mails and texts all coming in at the same time. When you click on the text button, it was coming in on pages."
Doleman, who was drafted as a linebacker in the first round of the 1985 draft, made the switch to defensive end early in his second season in the league – a move that he didn't agree with at first – and went on to become one of the most successful defensive linemen in NFL history.
By the end of his 15-year career, he had 150.5 sacks – most of them coming with the Vikings, plus 16 with the Atlanta Falcons (1994-95) and 38 with the San Francisco 49ers (1996-98) before ending his career with eight sacks in his return to Minnesota in 1999. His 150.5 career sacks are bested only by NFL career leader Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160).
It wasn't the sack numbers, however, that impressed his former defensive line coach, Paul Wiggin, the most. Doleman also registered 45 forced fumbles during his career.
"(He) took over games, dominated games. I think of all his statistics – sacks, that's the big word in football – but I think the one thing that's even more important is that he had 45 caused fumbles. That's unheard of," Wiggin said. "I don't know if it's a record, but I can't imagine anybody had more. What Chris had was unbelievable get-off but he had, even more than that, for a guy his height to have the body lean and body control that he had … as you see defensive ends running by quarterbacks, behind them, you see they almost run (into) the locker room sometimes they're so out of control, but this guy had so much body control he could back-door the quarterback."
It was sacks that put Doleman on the NFL map. By his third season, his first full season at defensive end, he had 11 sacks, the first of eight seasons in which he registered double-digit sacks. It's no coincidence that he also was voted to the Pro Bowl eight times. He was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Week eight times and had 39 games with multiple sacks.
The whirlwind of the Hall of Fame meetings has taken its toll. He wasn't sure what it day it was Thursday when he conducted a press conference at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility. He spent the past week at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis with all kinds of business surrounding his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, arriving last Thursday and not leaving until Wednesday after orientation meetings on Monday and Tuesday. He spent 14 hours at his home in Atlanta and flew to Minnesota Thursday.
"I'm still trying to get a feel for what it all means," Doleman said. "… It's a process you can't get your arms around."
Unlike the quarterbacks he wrapped up throughout his career.
In 1989, he set the Vikings' franchise record with 21 sacks, a mark that stood until 2011, when Jared Allen had 22 and came within a half-sack of Michael Strahan's NFL record from 2001. Doleman said he was hoping Allen would break Strahan's record and bring the single-season sacks title to Minnesota.
During his time in Minnesota, Doleman helped lead the Vikings to three No. 1 rankings on defense and did it again in San Francisco in 1997. He started 17 playoff games and his teams finished first or second in their respective divisions 11 of his 15 NFL seasons (he had only three losing seasons).
Now it's time for him to enjoy the fruits of his Hall of Fame career.
"The HOF piece is wonderful. They say you really enjoy it more the second year than the first year because you're constantly doing these types of things," Doleman said, realizing what it means to be recognized now as a Hall of Famer. "When I would give my opinion, it was just a player's opinion. Now it's a Hall of Famer's opinion. I'm the same guy.
It took seven hours and 37 minutes for the Hall of Fame selection committee to decide on Doleman as one of the five entrants to this year, but who was counting? Besides Doleman himself, who noted the nerve-racking wait this year.
"I thank God that they chose me," he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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