Thank you for that warm welcome. I can tell you right now, when I started out playing football a long time ago, I never thought I would be here, and I'm truly, truly blessed. I wanted to get that out the way so I can stay on my script as Bruce (Smith) told me.
In all, I've been able to accomplish, and I've learned over this journey, none of this would have happened without my Heavenly Father, and I would like to give thanks to him right now.
I want to give thanks to my son, Evan, who has done a wonderful job on the induction. I also want to thank the men and women of the Hall of Fame Committee for acknowledging me on February 4th, 2012, that my body of work was worthy of going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I'm honored to be here. I'm honored to stand before you as an inductee with the players that are on my right and left. I also want to thank the city of Canton, Ohio, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, its volunteers, my sponsors, Ann Cain from Titleist, Miller Brewing, Gary Beasler, Chris Doleman Pro Auctions, Todd Armstrong, Swanzetta Rogers, O'Deine Charles, and all of those who continue to support me.
Trust me, without these people, Chris Doleman would not be where he is today. Trust me on that one.
I'd also like to thank Game on Fantasy Football League, and a special thanks to the Minnesota Vikings, the owners, Zygi Wilf and his family, I truly appreciate everything. I really do. Kevin Warren, vice president of the organization, I'd like to thank you very much.
I'm extremely proud and humble to stand on this stage today with Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf, and join the other 267 brothers who are in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
I'd also like to recognize the passing of my first general manager, Mike Lynn, and I give my condolences to his wife, Georgia.
To my daughter and son, Evan and Taylor Doleman, I'd like to tell them that I love you very much. And I did everything for you. I worked as hard as I could to be your hero, to be that person that you looked up to, and try to live my life in a way that you would think is honorable. Thank you.
To my family members, my brothers and sisters, Michael, Clovis, Darrell, Tyrone, my sister Marilyn, Cashá, I am forever indebted for the support and love that you gave me throughout my years. To Toni Doleman, the mother of my children, you were with me throughout my career, and I want to thank you for your support and giving me two of the greatest gifts you can ever imagine in Taylor and Evan.
To my former teammates in San Francisco and Atlanta, I'd like to say thank you for welcoming me to your cities and into your family.
To all the Viking fans around the country that supported the Minnesota Vikings and Chris Doleman, through good weather, bad weather, snow, sleet, rain, showed up every Sunday. I want to say thank you, you're the greatest fans in the country in the National Football League.
I started playing football at eight years old at the Boys Club in York, Pennsylvania. At that time I just wanted to be a starter on the team. Then after I was a starter, I wanted to play more. York was Small Town, USA. As you might imagine, high school sports was king, especially on Friday nights. Playing football was everything.
I attended William Penn High School, and then I moved on to Valley Forge Military Academy. But when I was in high school, I believe and felt at the time that I could play at the major college level. I was recruited by several colleges and wanted to play at an institution where my parents could come watch me play every Saturday. I chose the University of Pittsburgh. (Applause). Thank you. I like that, hail to Pitt, where I was blessed with great coaching by remarkable men. Jackie Sherrill, Coach Fazio, Joe Moore, they challenged me every day. They brought the very best out of me, things that I never even knew that I had inside me. They were also there to let me know that I wasn't the only linebacker that they had on the team.
With my time at Pitt, the program prepared me for the next level, the National Football League. With the likes of Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dan Marino, Joe Schmidt and Curtis Martin.
The University of Pittsburgh set a standard that is second to none. Once I reached the National Football League, I had great coaching through the Minnesota Vikings. Drafted by Bud Grant who told me you play the game as fast and hard as you could. Jerry Burns reminded me, we play to win football games, not to play football.
Ford Peters, his famous words, "Get up field. Get after the passer." And Paul Wiggins, "Never let your competition dictate how you play." Through all of that, I ended up with a great coach by the name of John Teerlinck, who told us anything you wanted in life you could get through sacks, money, fame, women, cars.
I think what he was trying to say, "If you want the best, you've got to be the best." And I could never move on without Tony Dungy who taught me how to be a professional out there on the field.
To the men I lined up with every Sunday, they were great players, and even today some of them are great friends. Carl Lee, my right corner, Keith Millard, John Randle, we shared a lot of all pro years together. During those years Keith and John provided the inner defensive line competition, where all three of us fought to lead our team in sacks, and gain the top honor in the National Football League. Guys, I want to thank you for that push and that drive to move me to the next level. Thank you.
I can't leave this stage without mentioning two men whose friendships mean everything to me. Henry Thomas, our nose tackle, who held our dysfunctional group together. I love you for your sacrifice and how you played on Sunday to give me the freedom to do what I had to do. Henry's at nose tackle with 90 sacks.
But with John Randle and myself, it's hard to be recognized at nose tackle, and I appreciate it. It was a huge sacrifice, and I truly appreciate it.
To my attorney, and dearest friend David Falk. He's been called one of the most influential men in the NBA. He represented such names like Michael Jordan, John Thompson, Patrick Ewing, and yet he gave me the same attention as if he was doing a $100 million deal for me. I appreciate your commitment, and it's rare that an attorney and his clients can vacation and become better friends than they were when they were working together. Our relationship has been 27 years in the making, and I appreciate you, David. Thank you so much.
I cannot leave without also mentioning David's wife, Rhonda, who are relationships that I cherish and their friendship is unyielding. I just want to thank you once again.
Finally and importantly, a friend once asked me what made me smile throughout my career, and that's pretty easy. That's pretty easy. We all play the game for different reasons, but playing the game for the people that you love and care about, your mother and father, John and Mary Lee Doleman, who were there for me and for all of us boys. There were five of us, including myself. Week in, week out, they made many sacrifices. They took us to practice every day. All of us didn't play football. Some of us played basketball and baseball, but they were always there to take us and make sure that not only to drop us off, they sat there and watched practice while we were doing it. And that was before cell phones, so they weren't sitting there on the phone.
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, because I do appreciate the sacrifice and what it takes to get it done. My dad had one rule, if he signed you up for something, you had to finish. He didn't like wasting money, you know? So right there alone taught me the commitment of what it means to make a commitment. I love you both. Thank you for teaching me the importance of finishing what you started. And if it's any indication today, I finished the game I signed up for, and I want to thank everyone for coming out. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.