The first defensive player to win MVP, leader of the “Purple People Eaters“, College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, and judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court. All of these accolades, yet we rarely hear of the great Alan Page.
Early Life and Education of Alan Page
Alan Page was born in Canton, Ohio in 1945. During his teenage years, he was part of the construction crew that built the Pro Football Hall of Fame; an early glimpse of his fate to come.
For as ferocious as he was on the field, he fought just as hard for his education. At a young age, his parents stressed the importance of education and he took it to heart and committed to becoming a lawyer. After graduating from Notre Dame, he attended the University of Minnesota Law School while playing for the Vikings. After graduating, he worked at a Minnesota law firm during the NFL offseason between 1974-1984.
Page was drafted in the first round of the 1967 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Page was considered small for a defensive tackle but his quickness was something the NFL had never seen before. It took him four games to become a starter but once he did, he went on to win Rookie of the Year. Page became the leader of one of the most feared units in history in the “Purple People Eaters”. The Vikings went to five conference championships while winning four of them. Page played in four Super Bowls(IV, VIII, IX, XI) but were unable to win the championship.
During the 1971 season, Page tore through the NFL. He won the very first Defensive Player of the Year award. He also became the very first defensive player to win Most Valuable Player, a feat that has only been accomplished one other time since. In 1973, Page once again was named as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Swan Song With the Chicago Bears
Late in his career Page took up running marathons which led to him losing a significant amount of weight. Due to this, the Vikings released him and he signed with the Chicago Bears in 1978 and played his final four years with them. Page remained a solid player for the Bears but wasn’t the dominant force he had become known as.
Before the final game of the illustrious career of Alan Page, legendary Bears coach George Halas presented him a plaque inscribed with “With appreciation and admiration for the enjoyment you have brought so many”. During his acceptance Page, the everlasting scholar quoted the poem, “Ulysses” by Alfred Tennyson; “I am part of all that I have met”.
In the final game, the Bears had nothing to play for as their season was essentially over whereas the Broncos needed a win for a playoff spot. Page went out there like it was any other game and gave it his all to the final whistle. He wreaked havoc all day and three and a half sacks as the Bears beat the Broncos 35-24.
After the game was over, Page met his wife outside the stadium, and as they walked to their car all of the players had lined up and sang Auld Lang Syne. It brought Page to tears.
In 1985, Page was appointed the Minnesota Special Assistant Attorney General, and soon after he was promoted to the Minnesota Assistant Attorney General. in 1992, Page was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court which made him the first African-American to serve on the court. in 1998 he was re-elected and became the biggest vote receiver in Minnesota history. He was elected two more times (2004, 2010) before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Page and his wife also started the Page Education Foundation and have awarded grants to more than 7,500 students. Page has written four children’s books, as well. In 2017, a middle school in Minneapolis changed the school name to Justice Page Middle School. An elementary school is currently being built in Minnesota that will be named Justice Alan Page Elementary School.
In 2018, Page received the Presidential Medal of Freedom due to all of his efforts in law and to further education.
Accolades of a Forgotten Legend
Page has an incredibly long list of accolades:
- Nine straight Pro Bowls(1968-1976)
- Eight straight All-Pros
- Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards
- NFL Most Valuable Player
- 1970s All-Decade Team
- NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
- Vikings Ring of Honor and jersey retired
- Minnesota Supreme Court Judge
- Presidential Medal of Freedom
Stats were not an official stat during Page’s illustrious career but the Hall of Fame credits him with 173 unofficial sacks which would give him the third-most all-time. He also had 23 fumble recoveries, 28 blocked kicks(NFL record), and three safeties(second-most in history)
Why has Alan Page been seemingly lost in time? Not winning a Super Bowl and his sacks not being official are two big reasons. He may have never won the ultimate championship but what he did on the field is as dominant as the NFL has ever seen. What he did off the field is even more impressive. Alan Page is a player and a person that should never be lost in time.
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