In 15 N.F.L. seasons, mostly with the Vikings, Doleman was a 290-pound juggernaut, recording 150½ sacks. He died of brain cancer.
ImageChris Doleman was honored during a Vikings home game in Minneapolis in 2013. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the previous year.
Chris Doleman was honored during a Vikings home game in Minneapolis in 2013. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the previous year. Credit…Andy King/Associated Press
Chris Doleman, the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end whose 150½ career sacks in 15 seasons, mostly with the Minnesota Vikings, placed him No. 5 on the N.F.L. career list, died on Tuesday in Atlanta. He was 58.
The cause was brain cancer, for which he had undergone surgery in January 2018, the Vikings said.
The Vikings selected Doleman as the fourth pick in the 1985 N.F.L. draft out of the University of Pittsburgh and put him at outside linebacker, a position that he liked. But the Vikings switched him to right defensive end late in his second year, when it went to a 4-3 defense.
“I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight,” Doleman told The Boston Globe in January 1988. “It was like someone asking you to go cover a wedding. It’s a job, but you don’t fall in love with writing about weddings.”
He soon found, however, that being a fearsome pass rusher could be glamorous. As he put it: “If I made two tackles at linebacker, you’d say where was I all day? If I made two sacks at defensive end, you’d say I had a great day. Defensive end is where you can just tee off and get the quarterback.”
Doleman, at 6 feet 5 inches and 290 pounds or so, teamed with tackle Keith Millard as the most feared duo of N.F.L. pass rushers in 1989, when the Vikings led the league in sacks with 71.
“This guy was Superman,” Millard told The Star Tribune of Minneapolis upon Doleman’s death.
Bud Grant, who was in his final season as the Vikings’ coach when Doleman was a rookie, told The St. Paul Pioneer Press: “He was hard to block. He was big, fast, strong. He was extremely durable. He just had all the attributes of being a great player.”
Doleman was inducted into the Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, in 2012. The hall selected him for the N.F.L.’s second-team all-decade squad for the 1990s. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl player and twice chosen by The Associated Press as a first-team All-Pro.
Doleman played in his first nine seasons with the Vikings, two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and three for the San Francisco 49ers before returning to the Vikings in 1999, his final N.F.L. season.
He played on Viking teams that led the N.F.L. in fewest yards allowed in 1988, 1989 and 1993. And he was adept at stripping the football, forcing 44 fumbles and recovering 24 of them, according to team records.
Doleman appeared in 17 postseason games, but he never made it to the Super Bowl.
Christopher John Doleman was born on Oct. 16, 1961, in Indianapolis and grew up in York, Pa. He was living in the Atlanta area in recent years. His survivors include his wife, LaTresa, and his father, John.
Beyond his physical credentials, Doleman was a serious student of football.
As The Pioneer Press wrote after his death, when the Vikings were holding practices he would walk into the locker room every day carrying a briefcase.
“No other Vikings player brought a briefcase into the locker room, and teammates joked the only thing Doleman carried in it was his lunch,” the paper said.
Asked one day about it, he said: “This is where I come to work. This is what you bring to the office.”
“He opened his briefcase to reveal his playbook,” The Pioneer Press wrote. “Just the playbook.”