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Hall of Fame still sinking in for Doleman

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - When Chris Doleman got the news that he was headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he said he went numb and didn't hear the names of the players who were called after him.

It still hasn't sunk in nearly a week later.

"I'm still trying to get a feel for what all this means," the former Minnesota Vikings defensive end said Thursday. "You really can't get your arms around it."

Doleman spent 10 of his 15 NFL seasons in Minnesota, including the first nine after the Vikings drafted him in the first round out of Pittsburgh in 1985. He also played two years in Atlanta and three in San Francisco before coming back to end his career with the Vikings in 1999.

Doleman is fourth on the NFL's career list with 150 1/2 sacks. He had 21 in 1989, the Vikings' single-season record until this season when Jared Allen broke it in the final game.

"He was the type of player who took over games, dominated games," said Paul Wiggin, who was Doleman's first defensive line coach with the Vikings.

Doleman was drafted as a linebacker, but made the switch to defensive end in his second season. Playing on a line with Keith Millard, Henry Thomas and Al Noga, Doleman flourished, using an uncommon combination of size and speed to overwhelm offensive tackles.

"If you've got a goose that lays golden eggs, you don't mess with the goose," Wiggin said. "This guy had wonderful skills and I learned more from him than he ever learned from me because he had the ability to do so many things that were special."

Doleman had at least 11 sacks in eight seasons and even had an impressive eight in his final year in the league at the age of 38.

"When I moved to that position, it felt like home," he said.

But it took Doleman seven years of eligibility before he finally got the call for Canton. He was a semifinalist in his first few years of eligibility, was not among the finalists considered last year in Dallas, then finally broke through this year in Indianapolis.

"I know that I appreciate it more now than I would have appreciated it when I was, let's just say 38 or 40 years old," said Doleman, who will turn 51 in October. "You're just much more mature. You know what all this means and you know where you're going in your life."

His 21-year-old son Evan will introduce him at the induction ceremony in August, and both have been trying to get a handle on the enormity of the event.

Chris Doleman said that it's been a whirlwind ever since he got the news on Saturday. He's been flying around the country to various planning meetings, doing interviews until his voice wouldn't work anymore and trying to figure out who will be on the guest list.

And then there were the phone calls, emails and text messages he received on Saturday night.

"It was like your phone goes into some type of convulsion," he said.

Doleman expects to one day be joined by Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who was not voted in after being named a finalist for the fourth year in a row.

"I feel sorry for those guys. I really do," Doleman said of Carter and others who did not make it. "I was there."

He said he doesn't think the voting committee is easily swayed. But then again, he's never lobbied for someone as a member of the Hall before.

"When I used to give my opinion, it was just a player's opinion," Doleman said. "Now it's a Hall of Famer's opinion."

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