September 3, 2015–Chris Doleman, a former NFL lineman who is in the Hall of Fame, says his trip to Israel and baptism there was “an experience that can never be replicated. We saw so much, learned so much.”
Chris Doleman’s road to glory took him from small-town York, Pa., to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he said none of that compares to a life-changing trip to Israel where he was baptized in the Jordan River. Doleman, drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh by the Minnesota Vikings as the fourth player overall in the 1985 NFL draft, was one of 19 Hall of Famers who took a trip to Israel with United States Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, David Baker of the Hall of Fame and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. If someone got more out of the experience than Doleman, he has not emerged.
“Phenomenal,” Doleman, 54, told American Media Institute. “I would say to all African Americans: Go. It’s an amazing place.”
Doleman, who is a Christian, considered the opportunity to visit “the actual place where Jesus traveled a once-in-a-lifetime chance I couldn’t pass up. To be able to go and touch and see where Jesus walked, to see the Holy Land, was amazing.
“People talk about Calvary. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it.”
The trip was the brainchild of Dermer, a former star quarterback for the Israeli football team who grew up in Miami loving sports. “This experience brought my two passions together,” Dermer said. “Football and Israel. My thinking was that if we allow these men to see Israel for themselves, they would be sort of ambassadors to help spread the accurate word of what it’s like.
“The image of Israel is that it is in major conflict. The reality is that it’s a beautiful, safe place with a rich history. And Chris Doleman and the others embraced all that they were able to experience in about five days.” Doleman, 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, who played most of his 14-year career with the Vikings and chalked up 150 1/3 sacks, is a self-described “germaphobe” who refuses to touch public door knobs with his bare hands, among countless other idiosyncrasies. And yet during a visit to the Jordan River, Doleman volunteered to be baptized in the small body of water.
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