Chris Doleman

Class of 2012

Career sacks


Pro Bowls




Team sack titles


"I played for God, family and teams. My teammates were very important to me, but I always knew that I wanted to honor God. I never wanted to embarrass my family by playing bad, doing something that would bring shame to them, and my teammates, I owed that to them. I owed them the best performance that I could give them, week in week out.”

Enshrinement Speech

Career Highlights

Chris Doleman was drafted as a linebacker out of the University of Pittsburgh by the Minnesota Vikings as the fourth player overall in the 1985 NFL Draft. He was moved to a starting defensive end position for the final three games of his second season before assuming the full-time role as starter at the spot in his third year. It was then that he unleashed his great pass rushing ability when he responded with a team-high 11 sacks in 1987. It marked the first of six sack titles with the Vikings. For his efforts he was named All-Pro, All-NFC and voted to his first Pro Bowl.

His finest season came two years later in 1989 when he led the NFL with 21 sacks, just one shy of the single-season record at the time. In 1992, he was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Year after he led the Vikings with 14.5 sacks, had 64 tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown, forced six fumbles, recovered three fumbles, and had a safety.

After nine seasons with Minnesota, Doleman was dealt to the Atlanta Falcons in 1994. He spent two seasons with Atlanta before signing with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent in 1996. He played three seasons in San Francisco before returning for one final year with the Vikings in 1999.

He retired as the fourth-ranked sack leader of all-time with 150.5 sacks and was tied for third in the NFL Record Book with eight seasons in which he recorded 10 or more sacks. Aside from leading the Vikings in sacks six times, Doleman was also the Falcons' leading sacker in 1995 and led the 49ers with 15 sacks in 1998. He also intercepted eight passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns; recorded two safeties; and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery during his career.

Doleman was extremely durable as evidenced by him missing a mere two games due to injury during his 15-season, 232-game NFL career. In all, he was named to eight Pro Bowls, six with the Vikings and once each as a member of the Falcons and the 49ers. He was named first-team All-Pro in 1987, 1989, and 1992 and first-team All-NFC four times. Doleman is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s.


Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus passed away early Thursday at his home in California at the age of 80.Chris Doleman, 1961-2020


Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman passed away on Jan. 28, 2020 after a battle with cancer. He was 58. 

"I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being," said Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. "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.”

Read the full tribute article and watch a video honoring Doleman here.

Year Team G Sacks
1985 Minnesota 16 0.5
1986 Minnesota 16 3.0
1987 Minnesota 12 11.0
1988 Minnesota 16 8.0
1989 Minnesota 16 21.0
1990 Minnesota 16 11.0
1991 Minnesota 16 7.0
1992 Minnesota 16 14.5
1993 Minnesota 16 12.5
1994 Atlanta 14 7.0
1995 Atlanta 16 9.0
1996 San Francisco 16 11.0
1997 San Francisco 16 12.0
1998 San Francisco 16 15.0
1999 Minnesota 14 8.0
Career Total 232 150.5
Additional Career Statistics: Fumble Recoveries for TD: 1; Safeties: 2; Interceptions: 8-121, 2 TD


Championship Games

1987 NFC – Washington Redskins 17, Minnesota Vikings 10
Doleman started at right defensive end. He had one tackle and one assist.

1997 NFC – Green Bay Packers 23, San Francisco 49ers 10
Doleman started at right defensive end. He had two tackles.



All-Pro: 1987 (NEA) • 1989 (AP, PFWA, NEA, SN, PW) • 1992 (AP, PFWA, SN, NEA)



All-Pro Second Team: 1987 (AP) • 1990 (NEA) • 1993 (AP)

All-NFC: 1987 (UPI, PW) • 1989 (UPI, PW) • 1992 (UPI, PW) • 1993 (UPI)

All-NFC Second Team: 1988 (UPI) • 1990 (UPI)

(8) – 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998

(at time of his retirement following 1999 season)

• [Tied for 2nd] Most Sacks, Season – 21 (1989)
• [Tied for 3rd] Most Seasons with 10 or More Sacks – 8

Vikings records held by Doleman
(Records through the 1999 season, Doleman's final season with Minnesota)

• [1st] Most Sacks, Season – 21 (1989)

49ers records held by Doleman
(Records through the 2005 season, Doleman's final season with San Francisco)

• [3rd] Most Sacks, Game – 3.5 (vs. Carolina, Nov. 8, 1998)

Falcons records held by Doleman
(Records through the 1995 season, Doleman's final season with Atlanta)

• [3rd] Most Sacks, Game – 3.5 (vs. Carolina, Sept. 3, 1995)

NFL Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1989

NFC Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1989

Team Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995 Atl, 1998 SF

Atl Atlanta Falcons SF San Francisco 49ers All other titles won with Minnesota Vikings

• 1992 NFC Defensive Player of the Year (UPI)
• 1990s NFL All-Decade Team

Year Team W L T Division Finish
1985 Minnesota Vikings 7 9 0 (3rd)
1986 Minnesota Vikings 9 7 0 (2nd)
1987 Minnesota Vikings 8 7 0 (2nd)
1988 Minnesota Vikings 11 5 0 (2nd)
1989 Minnesota Vikings 10 6 0 (1st)
1990 Minnesota Vikings 6 10 0 (5th)
1991 Minnesota Vikings 8 8 0 (3rd)
1992 Minnesota Vikings 11 5 0 (1st)
1993 Minnesota Vikings 9 7 0 (2nd)
1994 Atlanta Falcons 7 9 0 (3rd)
1995 Atlanta Falcons 9 7 0 (2nd)
1996 San Francisco 49ers 12 4 0 (2nd)
1997 San Francisco 49ers 13 3 0 (1st)
1998 San Francisco 49ers 12 4 0 (2nd)
1999 Minnesota Vikings 10 6 0 (2nd)

Full Name: Christopher John Doleman

Birthdate: October 16, 1961

Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: February 4, 2012

High School: Valley Forge Military Academy (Wayne, PA); William Penn (York, PA)

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 4, 2012

Presenter: Evan Doleman, Chris' son

Other Members of Class of 2012: Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf

Pro Career: 15 seasons, 232 games

Drafted: 1st round (4th player overall) in 1985 by Minnesota Vikings

Uniform Number: 56

Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 4, 2012


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. 

Presenter Video: Evan Doleman presents father, Chris