MINNEAPOLIS — Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman, who became one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers during 15 seasons in the league, has died. The longtime Minnesota Vikings star was 58.
The Vikings and Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker offered their condolences in separate statements late Tuesday night. There was no word on the timing of Doleman’s death, but he had had surgery in January 2018 to remove a brain tumor and Baker said he passed away “after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer.”
“I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being,” Baker said in a statement. “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.”
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team is preparing to face San Francisco in the Super Bowl on Sunday, was tasked with trying to defend Doleman for years while working in Green Bay. Reid primarily worked with the Packers’ offensive line.
“I didn’t really know him well, but I knew he was a phenomenal player,” Reid said Wednesday. “I had teams that played obviously against him. My heart goes out to him. I know the struggles he’s had here the last little bit.”
Doleman played college ball for Pittsburgh before he was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. He spent his first nine seasons with the Vikings, collecting a league-high 21 sacks in 1989.
The 6-foot-5 Doleman also played for Atlanta and San Francisco before finishing his career with Minnesota in 1999. He had 150 1/2 sacks in 232 games. He was a first-team All-Pro selection on two occasions and made eight Pro Bowls.
Doleman, an Indianapolis native, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Chris was a great example for players past and present, as he embodied all the best characteristics of a Viking — resilience, toughness and a competitive spirit,” the Vikings said. “Chris always carried himself with dignity and class. Vikings fans worldwide will greatly miss him.”