Vikings hall of famer Chris Doleman visits Twin Cities, feels better after surgery for brain cancer
EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings hall of fame defensive end Chris Doleman has made it back to the Twin Cities this year, seven months later than he had expected.
Doleman, who lives outside Atlanta, had planned to attend Super Bowl LII in February at U.S. Bank Stadium. However, Doleman in January was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent surgery. He spent five weeks in the hospital but told the Pioneer Press in March he was getting "back into the swing of life.''
Doleman, 56, is indeed doing that. He was able to travel to Canton, Ohio, last month for the induction of former Minnesota teammate Randy Moss into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And this weekend he is in the Twin Cities for ceremonies involving late Vikings coach Dennis Green, who will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday's game against Buffalo.
"Let me tell you something,'' Doleman said Saturday during a visit to the Vikings Museum in Eagan. "Just the thought of catching up with everybody pulls you through those dark times.''
Doleman, who was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2011 and hall of fame in 2012, was greeted by a number of former teammates and members of Green's family. He said when the Vikings made the announcement in June of Green's impending induction he became determined to attend.
Doleman played in the NFL from 1985-99, including with the Vikings from 1985-93 and in 1999. He had Green as his coach in 1992, 1993 and 1999.
"When they invited me, my hope was that I was going to be here,'' Doleman said. "(Green's induction is) long overdue. It's great.''
Doleman walks with a cane and sometimes must use a wheelchair. Overall, though, he said he has improved greatly since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same cancer late Arizona Sen. John McCain had, and had a tumor removed.
"I'm feeling better,'' Doleman said. "I still have weakness on my left side, so my speech is slurred. ... The left side of my face, my tongue is weak. It makes it sound like I've been drinking all night.''
Doleman said he "cried like a baby" when he was diagnosed in January. He spoke, though, to Vikings President Mark Wilf and CEO Kevin Warren and a number of teammates, and all offered tremendous support. That helped his resolve to beat the cancer.
"I'm going to whoop this thing,'' he said.
Doleman was accompanied to the Twin Cities by LaTresa Doleman, whom he married Sept. 7. Doleman, who had surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, was so grateful for the care he received while recovering at Atlanta's Cancer Treatment Centers of America that the two had the wedding there. The center's chaplain performed the services.
"It was perfect because we've been through a lot in this process, and he just did so much healing there,'' said LaTresa Doleman.
When Doleman arrived at the Vikings Museum on Saturday, he was wearing a purple helmet with Vikings horns on each side. He has signed on the back of the helmet, "Chris Doleman. Skol. Vikings. HOF '12.''
Doleman, who takes anti-seizure medicine twice a day, said he wears the helmet when walking in the event he accidentally falls on his head. He proudly said that the Vikings mailed him the horn stickers to attach.
"He doesn't even have to wear (the helmet), but he loves wearing it,'' said Doleman's wife.
On his first visit to the museum, which opened in July, Doleman was overwhelmed. He looked at the room with displays of the six Vikings players who have had their numbers retired and said with a laugh, "They need to get a seventh number.''
Doleman, who wore No. 56, ranks fifth in NFL history with 150 1/2 sacks. He is included in an interactive display of Vikings hall of fame inductees. Touching a handprint of a hall of famer activates video highlights of him.
"It's great,'' Doleman said when first placing his hand on his handprint. "You can tell somebody about it, but it doesn't make the same impact as seeing it in person.''
Doleman was greeted at the museum by good friend and former Minnesota defensive tackle Ken Clarke. Clarke also lives in the Atlanta area, and he spent a good deal of time with Doleman when he was hospitalized.
"It's been a long road, and it's still a long road he's got to go,'' Clarke said. "But he's improved a tremendous amount. He's trying to get back to as much normalcy as he can and so far, so good.''