EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman’s name was announced as a newly elected member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he knew it was a career-defining moment.
What Doleman didn’t know was how his life, especially the next six months, was going to change. It didn’t take long to understand the demands he would soon face.
“You get a couple calls and then your phone literally goes into convulsions,” Doleman said. “It was unbelievable. So, at that point in time, I knew something big had happened. Because anybody I had ever met in my life was sending me some kind of communication.”
That type of response is just what the staff of the Hall of Fame is used to, but it can be daunting for the inductees. Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Dermontti Dawson, who will join Doleman in the 2012 class, described the days following the announcement as “mass chaos.”
From the outside, one would think the responsibilities for a new Hall of Famer would be preparing a speech, selecting a presenter and getting sized for a gold jacket. Instead, the six months between the Feb. 4 announcement and the inductions on Aug. 4 are packed with important tasks. There is so much to do that new inductees go through two days of orientation only two days after the names are revealed.
“You start right away breaking things down,” Doleman said. “As Tammy Owens said — she’s one of the lead people at the Hall — it’s like planning a wedding. You’re looking at invitations, guest lists, parties, food, the speech, the whole shooting match.”
At the initial orientation, held the Monday and Tuesday after the announcements, the inductees received a three-ring binder of information and instructions. Doleman said there were 10 hours of meetings during the two days with Owens and other Hall of Fame staff members going through the binder.
“It’s just like a playbook,” Dawson said. “It prepares you for everything, some things you don’t even think about; amount of tickets for every event, who’s an ‘A-list’ guest, who’s a ‘B-list’ guest. It keeps everything in mind. It’s a very, very taxing process.”
Former Saints and Chiefs offensive lineman Willie Roaf, another 2012 inductee, hired an event planner to help with the proceedings so he wouldn’t forget anything. With the Saints reportedly in line to play in the Hall of Fame Game, Roaf feels even more pressure.
“I have to make sure I have my speech ready,” Roaf said. “Canton is going to be crazy with all of those Saints fans in town. The commish put the pressure on, and I have to be ready. Those ‘Who Dat’ fans are going to be up there. It’s probably going to be a little crazy. I’ve got to have everything ready before I get there because if it’s not ready, it’s not getting done there.”
The Hall of Fame has asked for personal memorabilia from each of the inductees to be included in a display. Each of the inductees also has to travel to Canton, Ohio, for a site visit before the induction ceremony. And as Doleman’s phone proved, everyone wants some time with a new Hall of Famer. The days after the initial burst of interest were filled with media requests.
Doleman, speaking with the media at a news conference in Minnesota the week after the announcement, could hardly remember which day it was. He was in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl and stayed Monday and Tuesday for the orientation meetings. From there, he traveled home for one day before leaving for Minnesota.
“I’ve been going from one thing to another,” Doleman said. “I’ve been talking so much to a point where I’ve lost my voice. Every radio station, every national radio station, Sirius XM, I’ve done it.
“It’s just nonstop. The Hall of Fame piece is wonderful, but they say you really enjoy it the second year more than the first year because you’re constantly doing these types of things. Before now, when I would give my opinion, it was just a player’s opinion. Now, it’s a Hall of Famer’s opinion. So, I’m the same guy.”
Just with a few more responsibilities for the next six months.