Chris Doleman, a Hall of Fame defensive end and one of the most feared pass rushers in NFL history, died Tuesday night at the age of 58.
Doleman had been battling glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, since he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in January 2018. Glioblastoma is the same cancer that claimed the lives of U.S. Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy; and Beau Biden, son of former Vice President and current Presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Doleman told NBC Sports he “cried like a baby” upon hearing the diagnosis.
“When a doctor tells you that you have brain cancer, it changes your world,” Doleman said. “Those are the scariest words that you’ll ever hear in your life. When I first heard it, I was so devastated by it, I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. How many people do you know who survive brain cancer?”
Christopher John Doleman was born Oct. 16, 1961 in Indianapolis. He played collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, starting immediately in his freshman season. He finished his career for the Panthers with 25 sacks, ranked third in Pitt history. Nearly four decades playing his last game for Pitt, Doleman is ranked eighth in sacks.
Doleman was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the fourth overall in the 1985 NFL Draft. He spent 10 seasons with Minnesota (1985-93, 1999), two with the Atlanta Falcons (1994-95), and three with the San Francisco 49ers (1996-97).
Doleman compiled 150.5 career sacks, ranked fourth in NFL at the time of his retirement. He is currently ranked fifth.
Overall, Doleman had 975 tackles, 44 forced fumbles, 24 fumbles recovered, eight interceptions, and three touchdowns. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time First-time All-Pro, and a two-time Second-team All-Pro. He was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor. Doleman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
“The Minnesota Vikings express our deepest sympathies to Chris Doleman’s family and friends upon his passing,” the Vikings said in a statement. “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. Chris always carried himself with dignity and class. Vikings fans worldwide will greatly miss him.”
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Chris Doleman after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being. 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.”
Doleman is survived by his wife, Toni, and two children.