INDIANAPOLIS - For Chris Doleman, maybe this was how it was destined to happen. Sure, he had been pounding on the door of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for some time, eligible for eight years and a finalist for the second time in 2012.
And yes, at times, Doleman had even begun cushioning himself for the cruel letdown if the Hall's selection committee ultimately decided to keep him locked out -- again.
"When you go through this process sometimes you say to yourself, 'Well if it happens, it happens. And if it don't, it don't,'" Doleman said.
Yet on Saturday evening, while at Super Bowl XLVI in the city where he was born, Doleman finally experienced the thrill he'd longed for, voted into the Hall of Fame as part of a six-man class that also includes senior candidate Jack Butler, running back Curtis Martin, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and offensive linemen Dermontti Dawson and Willie Roaf.
Saturday's news delivered a jolt of euphoria to Doleman, the former Vikings star who terrorized quarterbacks for 15 seasons, recording 150 1/2 sacks and 45 forced fumbles.
All that anxiety from waiting years for his Hall call? Instantly decimated.
"I've always hoped people would remember me as a guy who lived his life at a high level with a high moral conscience," Doleman said. "And I always wanted people to remember that no matter what I did, I gave it my all. With this news, I'm on top of the world."
Disappointment for Carter
The emotions were far different for Cris Carter, a dynamic playmaker who went to eight Pro Bowls and lit up boxscores for 16 seasons. He had 1,101 catches, 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns during his career. But he will again have to wait for his invite to Canton, Ohio, one of three star receivers snubbed Saturday, all unable to break through a positional logjam that continues to bewilder the Hall's selection committee.
Distinguishing Carter's success from Tim Brown's and Andre Reed's has proven increasingly complicated. That didn't change Saturday. Reed and Carter both made the cut from 15 to 10 but didn't move into the final phase of voting, where five players receive a "yes" or "no," needing 80 percent approval from 44 committee members for inclusion into the Hall.
Warren Moon threw to Carter during his two most prolific seasons in 1994 and '95 and expressed his amazement that the marquee receiver still hasn't garnered the requisite approval.
"I watched Cris every day in practice," Moon said. "I watched how aggressive he was, how tenacious he was going after the ball. I think he definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame."
Stomach was "flip-flopping"
Doleman watched Saturday's selection show from a cousin's house where upwards of 30 relatives congregated. He had tried to kill time earlier in the day by attending a bowling event for NFL Charities but still couldn't quell his stress.
"My stomach was just flip-flopping, wondering, 'How's it gonna go? How's it' gonna go?'" he said.
Former teammate John Randle could only imagine Doleman's emotions -- not just Saturday but for the seven previous years.
"It's like waiting for your child to be born," Randle said. "But now, for Chris, the weight is gone forever."
Randle, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, gushed about the influence Doleman had on his career, a role model in the way he carried himself and in the way he pursued excellence. Randle recalled how Doleman would study an opposing tackle's tendencies and begin plotting his destruction.
"Chris didn't care who he was playing against," Randle said. "He was sure he was going to show the guy for 60 minutes, 'I'm Chris Doleman and I'm going to kill you.' Dole had his moves in hand with a purpose every week. You looked in his eyes and you instantly got confidence."
During Saturday's selection show, clips of Doleman using his speed and power to come off the edge and drill quarterbacks provided a reminder of his dominance. He went to eight Pro Bowls with three teams and was also a member of four defenses that finished No. 1 in the NFL. His sack total ranks fourth all-time.
Now, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, his 21-year-old son, Evan, serving as his presenter.
"The only thing bigger is being in God's kingdom," Doleman said. "I'll tell you that I'm totally blown away by this and just so humbled by it."