When you’re a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you’re generally the best player in the history of your team to wear a particular number. Such is the case with the number 56 for the Minnesota Vikings.
Chris Doleman didn’t get off to the fastest of starts with the Vikings after being drafted fourth overall in the 1985 NFL Draft. He played his first couple of years as an outside linebacker, and while he was solid, he didn’t truly become dominant until his third year in the NFL. That year, the Vikings moved him to the front line and the right defensive end position, and Doleman became one of the most feared pass rushers in all of football.
In 1989, he racked up 21 quarterback sacks, a number that still stands as the fifth-highest total for a player in one season. That was part of the 88.5 sacks that he collected with the Vikings in nine seasons from 1985 to 1993, with Doleman collecting double-digit sacks in five of those seasons. During that stretch, he was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first-team All-Pro (1987, 1989, 1992). After that, he moved on to a couple of different teams, playing two seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and three for the San Francisco 49ers.
He then returned to Minnesota in 1999 for a final season, and even at the age of 38 collected eight sacks, bringing his total for his Vikings’ career to 96.5. He’s “officially” second in Vikings’ history in sacks behind John Randle, but the “unofficial” totals would have him behind a couple of other players as well. Doleman went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
I do want to give a brief Honorable Mention to a more recent #56, and one of my personal favorite Vikings of recent times, linebacker E.J. Henderson. Henderson was a member of the Vikings from 2003 to 2011, and was a very good player for most of that time. He showed incredible toughness and determination in getting back to start the 2010 season after suffering a devastating leg injury in a game against the Arizona Cardinals the season before. His rehab program is now used as an example for other doctors to use in helping their patients rehab from similar injuries.
Vikings that have worn the number 56:
- Hap Farber (1970)
- Carl Gersbach (1971 - 1972)
- Scott Anderson (1974 - 1976)
- Bob Stein (1975)
- Dave Huffman (1979 - 1983)
- Bill Dugan (1984)
- Malcolm Carson (1984)
- Chris Doleman (1985 - 1993, 1999)
- Pete Bercich (1995 - 1998)
- Jim Nelson (2000 - 2002)
- E.J. Henderson (2003 - 2011)
- Michael Mauti (2013 - 2014)
On to the number 55 tomorrow, folks!