The Hall of Fame Series: Alan Page
Through 12 entries into this series, we’ve followed the paths players have taken en route to their enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, though, didn’t have far to go as he was born and raised in Canton, OH, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Page played his college ball at Notre Dame. He excelled, helping lead the Fighting Irish to a national championship as a senior in 1966. In the 1967 draft, the Vikings selected him with the 15th overall pick. Page was the final piece to the soon-to-be-vaunted “Purple People Eaters” defense (a nickname that Page despised).
It didn’t take long for Page to get acclimated to the NFL. He accumulated 8.5 sacks in 14 games and 11 starts in 1967. This began a 215-game starting streak that he would carry with him into retirement.
By the end of the 1968 season, Page began to get recognition for his performance. He was named to the first of nine consecutive Pro Bowls and All-Pro nods, although in 1968 he only received second-team awards. In 1969 Page helped spearhead one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history, intercepting a pick-six as well as racking up 9.0 sacks. This was his first appearance as a first-team All-Pro.
He was even better the following season, recovering a league-leading seven fumbles for a league-leading 77 return yards and a touchdown. With 10.5 more sacks, he was once again named first-team All-Pro.
In 1971, Page made history. Not only did he get named first-team All-Pro for a third consecutive year, but he became the first defensive player to ever win NFL MVP (Lawrence Taylor in 1986 is the only other defender to win the award). He had nine sacks, recovered three fumbles, and notched two safeties on the season as well.
Page would be named first-team All-Pro three more times from 1973 through 1975. Perhaps his best season following the MVP campaign, however, was 1976. Although much of the core of the Vikings was older, Page was only 31, which back then wasn’t the death sentence it is today. Page got to the quarterback 18 times during the 14-game season, a career-high and third consecutive season of 10-plus sacks.
Unfortunately, Page’s time in Minnesota came to an unceremonious end. The 6’3” defensive tackle who normally played at 245 pounds was playing at 225 in 1978. This was because he had become an avid runner. Two years prior, his wife had quit smoking. Part of quitting included running, so Alan Page would tag along as support.e-Eventually he fell in love with the sport and would run marathons in the off-season.
Although he cut his running down during the season (30 miles or less per week as opposed to 60-70 miles in the off-season), his weight was becoming an issue with head coach Bud Grant. The stoic coach even said, “Alan can no longer meet the standard he set for himself. He just can’t make the plays anymore.” The Vikings put Page on waivers, and his 12-year career in Minnesota ended after six games into the 1978 season.
The division-rival Chicago Bears snagged him up quickly, though. There was familiarity with general manager Jim Finks, who held the same title with the Vikings from 1964-73. Page performed admirably, leading the Bears in sacks in 1978 despite only playing ten games. Over his final three-and-a-half seasons, the man who allegedly couldn’t play anymore produced 40 sacks for Chicago. He would retire following the 1981 season.
Page’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He had 108.5 sacks for the Vikings, and his 148.5 career sacks unofficially rank eighth all-time, just behind fellow Viking Chris Doleman. His prowess even translated onto special teams as he blocked 28 kicks over his career. He was named to the NFL 100-Year Anniversary Team along with John Randle as a fellow defensive tackle.
What Page did on the field still wasn’t what he wanted to be remembered by. He went to law school at the University of Minnesota from 1975-78. Page could be found both before and after practices and games reading books for his courses. His desire for law grew because he felt like football limited him financially. Page believed that law could give him the stability he sought. Following his playing career, Page would serve as Supreme Court Justice for 22 years.
Fortunately, Page’s relationship with Minnesota got better following his playing career. After getting inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988, Page was inducted into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor in 1998. On top of that, the team retired his number, ensuring that no player will ever wear 88 again.
Alan Page remains not only one of the best Minnesota Vikings of all-time, but one of the best defensive linemen to ever play. His combination of quickness and instincts was second-to-none in his day. Page even began the technique of watching the ball and reacting to the snap as opposed to watching and reacting to the offensive lineman in front of him. His legacy will forever live on both on and off the field.