Football HOF Profile: Chris Doleman

On the defensive side of the ball there are many different disciplines and positions that require a specific set of skills. For the defensive backs there needs to be speed and the ability to react quickly. For linebackers there needs to be the ability to read a play and the ability to hit hard when a play comes your way. For the defensive lineman it is all about gap control and filling any area that a running back can get to. Even amongst these groups there are even more divisions amongst the positions. As a defensive back the division is between the cornerbacks, who need to have a great back pedal and some speed, and the safeties, who need the ability to read the field and decide where they should be. For the linebackers there is a division between middle linebackers, who need to be strong to deal with the middle of the line, and perimeter linebackers, who need quickness to get through the line or chase a running back to the sidelines. In the defensive line the division is between the defensive tackles, big body run stuffers, and the defensive ends, quick pass rushers. With specific sets of skills among every one of the positions it is difficult for many of the players to switch positions and be successful at this new position. There are only a select few that are able to do this switch but Chris Doleman became one of the few. Doleman came out of University as a linebacker with a good ability to rush the QB from that position. He head the size and speed necessary for linebackers of his era and looked to be a successful player in the future. He was by no means a superstar at linebacker but he filled a hole well enough that he could have started for many teams around the league. Near the end of his second season in the league Doleman’s role was completely changed as he was moved to the defensive line. As a stand-up defensive end Doleman was given a new role and one that he had never experienced before. The biggest difference was the timing as he would now not have the same amount of time to see how the play would develop as now he would have a lineman on him immediately. It didn’t seem to phase him though as he quickly learned how to play in his new position and then learned how to dominate at his new position. Not many players can make this transition as smoothly as Doleman did but because he did it he received that call to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Doleman began his career as a highly touted linebacking prospect out of the University of Pittsburgh when he was drafted 4th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 1985. In his rookie season Doleman started at his natural position but did not have the type of impact the Vikings were hoping for only earning .5 sacks. His second year was slightly better as he began to get used to the change from the NCAA to the NFL as he earned 3.0 sacks. At the end of his second year the team decided that he might be better used in another position one that he had never played before. In the final three games of the 1986 season Doleman was moved to defensive end as the Vikings believed his speed may be better used on the end of the line. In his first three games Doleman predictably struggled to find a rhythm as he went into the offseason unsure about his future role with the team. After one full offseason to get used to his new position Doleman proved his team right. In his first full season as a starting defensive end Doleman earned 11 sacks and led his team in the category. His efforts earned him his first Pro Bowl appearance as well as a sack title in only his first season as a defensive end. Over the next 13 years as a defensive end Doleman averaged 11 sacks a season making him one of the most feared ends in the NFL. This 13 year stretch also included his best season ever in the NFL in 1989 when he led the league in sacks again with 21 putting him within only one sack of the single season record. For Doleman his transfer to the defensive line helped him greatly as he went from being a solid role player to one of the most dominant defensive ends of his time earning him a spot in the Hall of Fame.


Chris Doleman, DE/LB (1985-1999)

6’5” 287 lbs

Minnesota Vikings (10 yrs)

232 G

150.5 sck

2 Sft


2 TD

– Named to the NFL All Decade Team (1990s)

– 8-time Pro Bowl Selection
– 3-time First Team All-Pro Selection

– Also played with Atlanta Falcons (1994-1995), and San Francisco 49ers (1996-1998)

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