Without a doubt, Alan Page was one of the reasons behind the Minnesota Vikings’ resurgence in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Page, Gary Larsen, Carl Eller, and Jim Marshall formed a vaunted Vikings defensive line known as the “Purple People Eaters” that smothered quarterbacks and made life miserable for offensive linemen.
With Page playing lights-out defense, Minnesota won ten division titles and made four Super Bowl appearances during his legendary stint in the Twin Cities from 1967 to 1978.
Page punctuated his heroics by winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors twice and the 1971 NFL MVP award.
Page eventually entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
There’s no question that Alan Page set the bar high for the defensive tackle position for years on end.
Alan Cedric Page was born to parents Howard and Georgianna in Canton, OH on August 7, 1945. He has three siblings.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin, Page entered the world between the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in World War II.
Page’s father Howard managed a bar with a gambling room while his mother Georgianna worked as a country club attendant.
Alan marveled at his dad’s numerical abilities related to gambling. Years later, he wondered how far his father could have progressed in his career had he applied his incredible math skills to another field.
Page, who grew up in the Buckeye State, followed the Cleveland Browns as a child, per the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website.
Page’s first job was washing dishes at the Brookside Country Club in Canton, OH. he earned $1.85 per hour. The club gave Alan free meals during his tenure.
Alan Page said he wanted to be a lawyer before a football player. He started playing football in ninth grade at Central Catholic.
— Ed Balint (@ebalintREP) February 25, 2016
Alan Page attended Central Catholic High School in his hometown.
Page told The Chicago Tribune (via The Independent) in 1988 that his mother Georgianna placed a heavy emphasis on quality education.
She considered Central Catholic better than most public schools in their neighborhood, so she enrolled her four children there.
Sadly, Georgianna never witnessed her son Alan evolve into a Pro Football Hall of Famer. She passed away when he was just 13 years old in 1958.
Alan eventually suited up as a defensive lineman for Central Crusaders head football coaches John McVay and Joe Eaglowski.
Before long, Alan Page attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. He eventually helped Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish go undefeated and win national titles in 1964 and 1966.
College Days with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Alan Page attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN from 1963 to 1966. He majored in political science.
Page played defensive end for Notre Dame Fighting Irish head football coaches Hugh Devore and Ara Parseghian.
When the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website asked Page in 2010 who his most influential coach was, he mentioned Parseghian’s name.
According to Strong of Heart’s Richard Conklin, Page arrived at Notre Dame at a time when there were few African-American players on the Irish roster. None of the team’s coaching staff was black.
Page gave other students the impression he was aloof. However, it was his gruff exterior and quiet and reserved nature that made them think that way.
Page was anything but reserved on the college gridiron.
Page, who stood 6’4″ and weighed 238 pounds in college, stood out as a quick and powerful defensive end who had his way with offensive linemen. He was a handful who was virtually impossible to block.
“Trying to block Page was like trying to block a ball bearing,” an observer said (via Strong of Heart).
Notre Dame Graduate:✔︎
Pro Football Hall of Fame:✔︎
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice:✔︎
Hear Alan Page's amazing story. pic.twitter.com/3ONKHWALh6
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) February 15, 2017
With Page anchoring Notre Dame’s defensive line, the Irish had a gaudy 25-3-2 record in the first three years of the Ara Parseghian era from 1964 to 1966.
With Page terrorizing offensive linemen and quarterbacks, Notre Dame won national titles in 1964 and 1966.
Page ended his college football career on a high note. He earned Consensus All-American honors at the end of the 1966 NCAA season.
Alan Page was just getting started. He would eventually become a stalwart on the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line that propelled the franchise to four Super Bowl appearances in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Pro Football Career
The Minnesota Vikings made Alan Page the 15th overall selection of the 1967 AFL/NFL Draft.
When Page turned professional, his pregame ritual included always putting on his protective gear and uniform in the same order. He also isolated himself from his teammates in the locker room, per ProFootballHOF.com.
Page had no reason for wearing No. 88 when he signed with the Vikings in 1967. It was the number the team gave him, and he stuck with it until his final game with Minnesota in 1978.
Page, a defensive end during his college days at Notre Dame, made the transition to defensive tackle in the National Football League.
It did not take long for Page to make an impact in Vikings’ purple and gold.
Vikings head coach Bud Grant made Page his starting defensive right tackle in the latter’s fourth game of his rookie campaign.
Page became firmly entrenched as Minnesota’s starting defensive tackle for the next eleven-plus seasons.
Page was one of the NFL’s ironmen during his heyday. He eventually started 235 consecutive games without missing one until 1978.
Along with defensive tackle Gary Larsen and defensive ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, Page became part of a vaunted Vikings defensive line collectively known as the “Purple People Eaters.”
In the bigger scheme of things, the group became one of the most legendary defensive lines in NFL history.
Football historians have considered the “Purple People Eaters” one of the best along with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain,” the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome,” the New York Jets’ “New York Sack Exchange,” and the Chicago Bears’ “Monsters of the Midway.”
Page and the rest of the “Purple People Eaters” were one of the reasons behind the Vikings’ resurgence in the late 1960s and 1970s. It was arguably the best stretch in franchise history.
Minnesota had never won more than eight games in a season when Page entered the NFL ranks in 1967.
With Page beefing up the Vikings’ pass rush, they became one of the best teams in the NFL in the late 1960s and 1970s.
With Grant at the helm, Minnesota averaged ten wins per year from 1967 to 1978. The Vikings won ten division titles and made ten postseason appearances during those memorable eleven years.
Minnesota also made four Super Bowl appearances from 1969 to 1976. Unfortunately, the Vikings lost each time.
If there was one consolation for the Vikings, they won the NFL championship in 1969. Alas, they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, 23-7.
Nevertheless, Alan Page emerged as one of the league’s best defensive linemen.
Page earned nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1968 to 1976. He also earned six career First-Team All-Pro and three Second-Team All-Pro selections.
Page also won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1971 and 1973. The pinnacle of his legendary pro football career came in his fifth season when he earned the 1971 NFL Most Valuable Player honors.
Alan Page set himself apart from other defensive linemen of his era because he did not merely wait for the ball carrier – he went looking for him.
Page was also more interested in the snap of the ball rather than the reaction of the offensive lineman he faced at the line of scrimmage.
“A defensive player should think of himself more as an aggressor, not as a defender,” Page told ProFootballHOF.com.
When Page reached the pinnacle of his iconic pro football career, he discovered a new passion: marathon running.
Page began running marathons in his last several seasons in Minnesota, per Rushin.
Page remembered one time a new Vikings defensive line coach wanted his players to read and learn the playbook thoroughly, per the former’s Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech.
Page, who went to Notre Dame, and two other Minnesota defensive linemen breezed through the playbook.
On the other hand, two of them did well enough. Finally, the last four from the group struggled in poring over the playbook.
Page and the four other linemen who understood the playbook felt sympathy for their four teammates.
“We all shared their pain,” Page said. “Without reading skills, what were their chances of finding employment once their playing days were over?”
That eureka moment fueled Alan Page’s desire to help youngsters who struggled through school when he retired from the National Football League at the end of the 1981 NFL season.
Not only that, but Page also dedicated a huge chunk of his enshrinement speech for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the importance of educating children.
Page embarked on a career after football years before he retired from pro football.
Regrettably, Page’s first attempt at law school was an epic disaster.
Page enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law in 1968 – his second season in the National Football League.
“It was not pretty. I lasted about three weeks,” Page told Notre Dame Magazine in January 2021. “I was in over my head. I didn’t understand what was going on.”
Page pulled himself together and enrolled at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1976.
Page devoured law books in the locker room. He also studies for his tests on the Vikings’ team bus, per Rushin.
He attended classes at the University of Minnesota Law School and eventually earned his Juris Doctor in 1978 – his last season with the Vikings.
Page eventually passed the bar exam on his second attempt in February 1979, per Sports Illustrated.
The Minneapolis law firm Lindquist and Vennum soon hired the 34-year-old Page.
One of the firm’s partners spoke highly of its newest recruit.
“We don’t hire jocks. He is coming to our firm as a new young lawyer who is a superb human being.”
Page spends most of his time poring over labor law documents.
He put his lawyering skills to good use years before he became an attorney. Page was an active participant in the NFL Players Association’s executive council in 1974.
Page took on several off-season jobs apart from his law school commitment.
He told ProFootballHOF.com in 2010 that he worked as a used car salesman and a college recruiter.
Page also had a vending machine business that suffered significant financial losses during his playing days.
Sadly, the Vikings released Alan Page early during the 1978 NFL campaign.
Page told Swift that Vikings head coach Bud Grant called him at 6:37 p.m. Central Time on the October 10, 1978 trade deadline, per Sports Illustrated’s E.M. Swift.
The manner in which Minnesota released him stung Page, who had spent his entire eleven-year career in the Twin Cities until that point.
“After twelve years, they fired me over the phone,” Page told Sports Illustrated in the summer of 1979. “That hurt a little bit.”
According to Sports Illustrated, Page’s leaner frame was one of the reasons Minnesota waived him. Page, whose playing weight peaked at 245 pounds, was down to 222 pounds in 1978.
Prior to Page’s release, he and Grant had some issues. Grant docked Page $50 in salary for showing up late for a team meeting in August 1978.
Page did not take it lightly. He complained twice to the NFL Players Association and alleged that Grant failed to give his team the necessary 24 hours off each week during the season.
Alan Page's #Vikings DT records:
– Career SK (97.5), SFTY (2), & FR (17)
– Top3 season FR (7)
– Season SFTY (2)
– Seasons of 5/6/7/8/9+ SK or 1/2/3+ FR
– T-most season SK (18.0)
– Only Defensive MVPpic.twitter.com/eVi3m6mafg
— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) October 6, 2022
Tensions between Page and Grant reached a boiling point in a Week 4 game against the Chicago Bears.
Grant took Page out in favor of Duck White twice during the game. When Vikings defensive lineman Doug Sutherland was injured with two minutes left, an assistant coach signaled Page to take the field again.
Page refused. Grant had to tap another lineman to replace the injured Sutherland.
Consequently, Grant noticed that a slimmer Alan Page’s pass-rushing skills in short-yardage situations had deteriorated dramatically.
Grant told Swift that Page’s tackling numbers had dwindled considerably from 10 per game for years to just one or two in his twilight years in Minnesota.
When the Chicago Bears claimed Page off waivers, he proved he was far from finished.
Bears head coach Neill Armstrong assigned Page to the right tackle position where he had a team-leading 11.5 sacks and 50 tackles.
Chicago, which ranked 22nd in the NFL in defense in 1977, became the league’s 12th-best defensive unit with Page at right tackle in 1978. The Bears were two spots ahead of Page’s former team, the Minnesota Vikings.
Chicago averaged seven wins per season in Page’s four seasons with the team from 1978 to 1981.
The Bears’ most successful season during those four years was in 1979 when they won ten games.
Unfortunately, they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Game, 27-17.
That postseason game turned out to be Alan Page’s last in the pro football ranks. He hung up his cleats following the 1981 NFL season.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website, he had 173.0 sacks, 23 fumble recoveries, and 28 blocked kicks during his iconic fifteen-year NFL career.
Bud Grant, Page’s head coach with the Minnesota Vikings, sang his praises in Page’s 2010 biography.
“Alan Page was the best defensive player I ever saw,” Grant said. “He was a great competitor.”
Page had no favorite NFL stadium other than the Vikings’ Metropolitan Stadium and the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field during his pro football career. They all looked identical to him and none of them stood out.
Alan Page did not single out any team as the toughest he ever faced during his NFL career. His mindset was to deal with opposing offensive linemen to the best of his abilities.
Page told the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website in 2010 that his proudest accomplishment off the gridiron was being a successful husband, father, and grandfather.
Alan Page currently resides in the Minneapolis, MN area. Sadly, his wife Diane passed away in the fall of 2018.
Page has two daughters from his first marriage: Nina and Georgianna. Alan and Diane have two children together: Justin and Khamsin. The couple has several grandchildren.
Page did football commentary work for Turner Broadcasting System and National Public Radio in the early 1980s.
Alan Page became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the summer of 1988.
Page found out about his induction after he and his wife Diane got home after a run in the snow. Page and his family learned about the good news on the radio.
North Community High School (Minneapolis, MN) principal Willarene Beasley was Page’s presenter.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) August 7, 2020
Beasley mentioned Page was the first native of Canton, OH to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. According to Beasley, Page was also the only NFL player who finished a marathon at the time.
She also mentioned Page’s transition from NFL defensive lineman to lawyer in her presentation. At the time, Alan Page was Minnesota’s assistant attorney general.
Beasley also discussed Page’s passion for education and sports. Page emphasized that a career in athletics is not a lifelong endeavor.
Athletes must prepare for another career after retirement. Page, a renowned attorney, did just that.
Part of Page’s enshrinement speech reads:
“All the men you see here today reached the Hall of Fame because they couldn’t be satisfied with their past performances. So as I try to give meaning to this occasion for myself, I want to focus on what I can do for the future.”
Page also revealed in his induction speech that he had been talking to schoolchildren of various ages for the past decade.
With that, Page and his wife Diane established the Page Education Foundation the same year he earned a gold jacket and bust in Canton, OH.
The foundation aims to help Minnesota school-age children pursue a college education and, consequently, make an impact on society.
Since its inception in 1988, the foundation has given more than 8,000 student grants amounting to more than $16 million, per its official website.
Alan Page also served as a member of the Minneapolis Urban League’s board of directors and the University of Minnesota’s board of regents in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Page met former President Bill Clinton at a luncheon in Minneapolis, MN in the early 1990s, per the former’s 2010 biography, All Rise: The Remarkable Journey of Alan Page.
Page was already serving as an associate justice of Minnesota’s supreme court at the time.
It was his third time serving in that capacity. Page, the first African-American member of the Minnesota supreme court, was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.
Page eventually retired in the summer of 2015 citing the 70-year-old retirement age for Minnesota justices, per The Independent.
Clinton discovered Page and his wife’s passion for running, so he asked his staff to set up a run with the couple along the Mississippi River. They forged a tight friendship during those runs.
Clinton remembered Page as a dedicated runner who covered his usual five-mile route every morning.
— Alan Page (@ACPage_77) July 12, 2022
Before long, President Clinton called Page whenever he was in Minneapolis. Clinton attended various functions of the Page Education Foundation. The two men also went on runs in the Twin Cities.
For their part, Alan and Diane Page visited Clinton and his wife Hillary at the White House during the Clinton presidential regime from 1993 to 2001.
Page supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2016.
Currently, there are two Minnesota schools named after Page: Justice Alan Page Middle School and Justice Alan Page Elementary.
Page’s hobbies include running and collecting old cars. As of the mid-2000s, he had a 1906 and 1910 Buick. He does not watch movies frequently, per ProFootballHOF.com.
Page also collects artwork pertaining to African-American history, per the University of Notre Dame’s official website.
In terms of Page’s favorite musical genres, he likes soul, Motown, and classical tunes. Pasta tops his list of favorite foods.
Page, a marathoner, admires an Ethiopian runner named Haile Gebrselassie. The latter won a gold medal in the men’s 10,000 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Page has written four children’s books: Bee Love, Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack, The Invisible You, and Alan and His Perfectly Pointy Impossible Perpendicular Pinky.
Page has a combined twelve honorary doctorates in humane letters and law. He has one each from his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.
Among the many accolades Page has earned during his retirement years include the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Alan Page is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the Academic All-American Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor, the Minnesota Vikings 25th Anniversary Team, the Minnesota Vikings 40th Anniversary Team, the 50 Greatest Vikings, the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.