When the Minnesota Vikings selected Chris Doleman in the first round (fourth player overall) of the 1985 NFL draft, they envisioned him as one of their linebackers of the future.
Late in Doleman's second season with the Vikings, the team switched Doleman to defensive end, a move that started him on a path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Doleman was born in Indianapolis in 1961, but grew up in York, Penn. After graduating from William Penn High School, he played four seasons as a linebacker for the University of Pittsburgh. The Panthers went 28-7-1 and played in three bowl games in Doleman's first three seasons.
After starting the final three games of the 1986 season for the Vikings at defensive end, Doleman became a full-time starter in 1987. He responded with a team-high 11 sacks in 1987. After the season — the first of six that he would lead the Vikings in sacks — he was named All-Pro, All-NFC and voted to his first Pro Bowl.
In 1989, he led the NFL with 21 sacks, which would stand as a Vikings team record until Jared Allen had 22 in 2011. In 1992, Doleman was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Vikings with 14.5 sacks, recovering three fumbles and returning an interception for a touchdown.
After nine seasons with the Vikings, he played two seasons for the Atlanta Falcons (1994, 1995) and then three seasons for the San Francisco 49ers (1996 to 1998). He finished his career in 1999 with the Vikings.
In 15 NFL seasons, the 6-5, 270-pound Doleman had 150.5 sacks in 232 games. When he retired, he ranked fourth on the NFL career sacks list. The durable Doleman missed just two games because of injury during his career.
He was a three-time first-team All-Pro (1987, 1989 and 1992) and two-time second-team All-Pro (1990 and 1993). He was named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s.
In 2010, he was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings and is in the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Doleman died on Jan. 28, 2020 at age 58 after being diagnosed two years earlier with brain cancer.