Chris Doleman (Charles LeClaire/US Presswire)
Former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman led four linemen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, saying he followed his father’s advice to finish what he started.
Chris Doleman knew how to get to the quarterback, no matter where he lined up or which team wanted him.
The former Vikings defensive end turned his 150-sack career into a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was the third of six players inducted Saturday night, Aug. 4, joining Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf and Jack Butler.
Doleman was drafted as a linebacker by the Vikings, but soon was switched to end. He was fourth on the all-time sack list with 150½ when he retired after a 15-year career with the Vikings, Falcons and 49ers.
He missed only two games and reached the Pro Bowl eight times, including at least once with each of his three teams. He was presented on Saturday by his son Evan.
Doleman recalled that his father had one rule: Finish what you start.
“Thank you for teaching me the importance of finishing what you started,” Doleman said. “And if it’s any indication today, I finished the game I signed up for.”
Doleman was one of four linemen inducted – a fact not lost on Roaf, whose speech was short and humble, befitting those who played their stellar careers in the scrums rather than the spotlight.
“You know, it’s an offensive lineman,” said Roaf, who was very hard to get around on the field. “I didn’t get singled out in front of a large audience very often, and when I did, it was usually by a referee who was singling me out by saying, ‘Holding No. 77.’
“That’s not going to happen today. And it wasn’t too often when I played.”
Roaf was one of the greatest players in Saints history, so good that he regularly made the Pro Bowl even though New Orleans had only one winning season in his nine years there. His induction gave the franchise something to celebrate after an offseason clouded by its bounty scandal.
Saints players sat in the last three rows of seats on the field, wearing black T-shirts with Roaf’s No. 77 on the back. They’re in town to play Arizona in the Hall of Fame preseason game on Sunday night.
The enshrinement evening also had a strong Pittsburgh flavor.
Hundreds of Steelers fans filled the field and stands, waving yellow “Terrible Towels” to celebrate the city’s starring role in the evening.
Two of the new Hall of Famers played for the Steelers – Butler and Dawson. Martin grew up in Pittsburgh, where his mother forced him to play football to stay out of trouble in his rough neighborhood. And Doleman went to the University of Pittsburgh.
Butler, inducted second, took the most unexpected path to the hall.
He didn’t play football in high school, picked the game in college at St. Bonaventure and entered the NFL as an undrafted player in 1951, just another player filling out the Steelers roster.
Butler was a force at cornerback during his nine-year career in the 1950s, finishing his career as the second-leading interceptor at that time.
A group of Butler fans sat in the front rows, wearing throwback uniforms – yellow jerseys with black stripes – that made them look like bees.
Now 84, he thanked his family and friends for being in Canton for his long-awaited moment.
“Heck, I’m thankful I’m here,” he said. “I thank you all.”