Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman died Tuesday night after a battle with cancer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced in a statement. He was 58.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Chris Doleman after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer," said David Baker, the Hall of Fame's president and CEO. "I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being. One of the honors of my life was witnessing Chris get baptized in the Jordan River during a Hall of Fame trip to Israel.
"The legacy of Chris Doleman will live forever in Canton, Ohio, for generations to learn from how he lived a life of courage and character."
Doleman played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1985 to 1993 and ended his career with the club in 1999.
In 2018, he had surgery to remove a brain tumor.
In fact, just four days ago Doleman tweeted about the anniversary of his initial brain surgery.
Today is my 2 year anniversary of being a brain cancer survivor! Huge!— ChrisDoleman (@chrisdoleman1) January 25, 2020
I recall the hoopla surrounding the 1985 NFL draft, specifically because my Vikings were targeting a high profile offensive lineman out of Pittsburgh by the name of Bill Fralic. Upon hearing of the Vikes' interest, Fralic expressed his reluctance to playing in Minnesota. As a result, the Vikings sent their #2 pick in the first round to the Falcons in exchange for Atlanta's #4 overall pick and their third round choice. The Vikes used that #4 selection to pick Fralic's Pitt teammate Doleman. Safe to say my Vikings club got the better end of that deal.
In his first two NFL seasons, Doleman, then an inside linebacker, didn't stand out at all. In fact, I recall one football writer broaching the possibility that Doleman didn't have much of a future in the league given his dismal performance in his rookie season. But the path to Canton was initially paved in 1987, when he was moved to Defensive End. It was there where Doleman recorded 147 of his 150.5 career sacks, which is good for fifth all time. It was also that '87 season where Doleman became a household name with his badgering of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana in a divisional playoff game. In fact, Montana was so inept that his future was called into question after his backup QB, Steve Young, almost rallied the Niners to victory (spoiler alert: Montana led San Francisco to consecutive Super Bowl victories the following two seasons).
(Doleman) was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
"The Minnesota Vikings express our deepest sympathies to Chris Doleman's family and friends upon his passing," the team said in a statement. "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."
Thankfully, the memories of his Hall of Fame career live on.