FLOWERY BRANCH –For the second year in a row, a player with ties to the Atlanta Falcons will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Former Falcons defensive end Chris Doleman, who played two seasons (1994-95) for the franchise, will be enshrined Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m extremely proud of the time that I spent in Atlanta,” said Doleman, who enjoyed playing with quarterback Jeff George, cornerback D.J. Johnson and safety Kevin Ross. “We were part of a group that came in and got them to the playoffs. For that moment, we accomplished something that they hadn’t accomplished [once before] in almost a decade.”
Doleman will join cornerback Deion Sanders, running back Eric Dickerson and wide receiver Tommy McDonald as the only Falcons in Canton. Dickerson played briefly for the Falcons during the 1993 season. McDonald, who was a member of the 1967 squad, played just one season for the Falcons. Sanders (1989-93) is the only player drafted by the Falcons in the Hall of Fame.
Linebacker Tommy Nobis and defensive end Claude Humphrey are the two other Falcons who have received major Hall of Fame consideration. Nobis (1966-76) has been among the preliminary nominees five times and has been considered by the senior committee on 10 occasions, according to Joe Horrigan of
the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Humphrey (1968-78) has had four opportunities; three as a modern-day finalist and one as a nominee of the Hall’s senior committee.
June Jones was the Falcons head coach during Doleman’s two seasons. The 1995 team was only the fifth Falcons team to reach the playoffs. They were 9-7 and were defeated 37-20 by the Green Bay Packers in a wildcard game on Dec. 31, 1995.
The Falcons also reached the playoffs in 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1991.
“In 1994 we traded for Chris Doleman from the Minnesota Vikings,” Jones wrote in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “When Kenny Herock made the trade, we knew that he would give us leadership and respect around the entire NFL; which Atlanta had not had since I was there as a player with Leeman Bennett. He did not disappoint us.”
Doleman played the previous 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, terrorizing quarterback in the old Black & Blue NFC Central. After his Atlanta stint, Doleman played three years in San Francisco before ending his career back in Minnesota for one season.
“He fought through some injuries and Chris gave us leadership in the locker room, 16 sacks over two years, and played his way to the Pro Bowl,” Jones wrote. “He played the game at the highest level. He taught our young guys what it took to be the best by showing us his work ethic.”
All wasn’t perfect during Doleman’s stay with the Falcons.
“The problems with that team was that we just didn’t have enough players or the players that we had, they didn’t have the right attitude,” Doleman said.
His trek to Canton, Ohio started on the Pop Warner fields of York, Pa. where he first played as an 8-year-old for the York Boys Club.
He starred at Pittsburgh and was drafted by the Vikings fourth overall in the 1985 NFL draft.
He registered only 3.5 sacks in his first two seasons, while playing outside linebacker.
“Floyd Peters came into Minnesota and we were trying to make a run for the playoffs and he asked me could I play on the defensive line,” Doleman said.
He went on to get 147 sacks over the next 13 seasons. But his trademark move was the sack-strip. He forced 44 fumbles and recovered 24.
“When I went to the defensive line position, it allowed me to define how I wanted to be perceived as a pass rusher,” Doleman said.
Instead of concentrating on putting a big hit on the quarterback, Doleman focused on getting the ball back for his team.
“That’s a much bigger play,” Doleman said. “That was always my thing.”
Doleman is most fond of his days in Minnesota and felt that going up against tackle Gary Zimmerman in practice made him better. Zimmerman was inducted to the Hall of Fame is 2008.
He also credited coaches Bud Grant, Bill Walsh, Paul Wiggins, John Teerlinck, Tony Dungy, and Peters with helping his career.
“All of these guys were instrumental people, not only on the field, but in my life,” Doleman said.
He will be presented by his son, Evan, who’s 22 years old.
“The thing I cherished the most about the NFL was that my kids actually had a chance to see me play,” Doleman said. “They know exactly what I did and know my impact on the game.”
Even though Doleman’s stay with the Falcons was brief, Jones will take pride in seeing him wear his yellow jacket and stand in front of his bust.
“He was the consummate pro,” Jones wrote.
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