In 1984, the only year of Les Steckel's disastrous reign as head coach, the Minnesota Vikings went 3-13 and lost their final six games by an average score of 40 to 13. After a series of trades involving the Vikings, the Houston Oilers, and the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota found themselves with the fourth overall pick. The Buffalo Bills used the first overall pick on Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith, followed by the Falcons selecting Pittsburgh offensive lineman Bill Fralic, and the Oilers taking Texas A&M defensive lineman Ray Childress.
That left the Vikings to take Fralic's teammate out of Pittsburgh, defensive end Chris Doleman. While Doleman became a Vikings legend, it certainly didn't appear at first that Doleman's career would take that trajectory.
For his first couple of seasons in Minnesota, Doleman lined up at a linebacker position as a part of what was then a 3-4 defense for the Vikings. However, prior to his third season in the NFL, the team switched to a 4-3 front, and that enabled Doleman to line up with his hand on the ground at a defensive end spot instead. Doleman took to the position immediately, racking up 11 sacks and forcing six fumbles from the defensive end spot in 1987.
In 1989, he had one of the truly legendary pass rushing seasons in not only team history, but NFL history as well. That season, Doleman got to the quarterback 21 times, a mark that was tied for second in the history of the league at the time (it's currently in a tie for fourth place), as well as forcing five fumbles and recovering five. He led a defensive line that, along with defensive tackles Keith Millard and Henry Thomas and defensive end Al Noga, generated a blistering 59.5 sacks that season.
In his ten seasons in Minnesota, Doleman put up 96.5 sacks. He also intercepted five passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns, forced 44 fumbles, and recovered 24. On draft day in 1994, the Vikings traded Doleman and a second round pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a first round pick in 1995 (which turned into defensive end Derrick Alexander) and a second-round pick in 1994 (which turned into running back/return specialist David Palmer).
Doleman played two seasons for the Falcons, and then moved on to play for the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons. Over that five season stretch, he averaged nearly 11 sacks a year, including a 15-sack performance for the Niners in 1998. He then returned to Minnesota and, at the ripe old age of 38, proved that he could still get the job done by collecting eight more sacks in 1999. When he hung up the cleats following that season, he had 150.5 career sacks. That figure currently places him fourth in NFL history for a career behind Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198), and Kevin Greene (160).
Doleman is the fourth Viking in the last five years to enter the Hall of Fame, joining offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (2008), guard Randall McDaniel (2009), and defensive lineman John Randle (2010). He will be presented at the enshrinement ceremony by his son, Evan.
The 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Saturday afternoon, August 4, and will be televised on the NFL Network. The network's coverage will start at 3 PM Central time, with the ceremony itself starting at 6 PM Central.
Congratulations to Chris Doleman on his amazing accomplishment, and the amazing career that got him to this point.