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.
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