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Vikings Honor Alan Page's Pace-Setting

Alan Page is quite the pace setter.

Always has been.

Whether it was: in college as an All-American who became a first-round draft pick; in professional football as a six-time All-Pro and the first defensive player to ever win NFL MVP honors (in 1971); serving on the Minnesota Supreme Court for 23 years; teaching young people about the importance of education; or on his daily runs, Page has impressed and inspired.

He'll do so again today when he sounds the Gjallarhorn before the Vikings take the field against the Lions.

A member of the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame and Vikings Ring of Honor, Page retired from the Minnesota Supreme Court in August because he turned 70, the mandatory age of retirement.

The Vikings held a reception in Page's honor last month and presented him a proclamation as former teammates (including fellow defensive linemen Jim Marshall and Carl Eller), friends and family celebrated his accomplishments.

"On behalf of the Wilf family, the entire Minnesota Vikings organization and the entire fan base around the world, we'd like to welcome you tonight to honor Judge Page, Diane Page and the family for what you've been able to accomplish," Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said. "We don't look at this as the end of a career. We look at this as the beginning of another career. I know they will continue to do great things. With that said, we'd like to present them."

Page thanked all in attendance, including his wife, Diane, saying they are a team.

"As all of you go through life, take the opportunity to help somebody who is less fortunate because it is through that, through those acts that we will begin to solve some of the complicated, difficult problems we face," Page encouraged attendees.

He noted how much fellow Hall of Famer Carl Eller, and Ring of Honor member Jim Marshall meant to him, and both men said how they impressed him when he arrived at the Vikings in 1967 and what he's accomplished since.

"Thank you Alan for the wonderful career you've had not just in football, but in life," Marshall said. "I think I speak on behalf of everyone in here that we're so proud of you, man. You are the best.

Eller recalled arriving at the Vikings in 1964, three years after Marshall arrived for the Vikings inaugural season. Eller said he learned under Marshall's leadership and they planned to pass it along to the rookie.

"We did the same thing for Alan in a way that we were not prepared for because Alan was an outstanding individual from the very beginning, so he thinks he kind of taught us to go Alan's way," Eller said. "You have been a marvelous example. You've taught me a lot, and I've learned a lot from you."

Mrs. Page said the reception at the U.S. Bank Stadium Preview Center meant a lot to the family and friends. Two of their four children, Justin and Nina, were able to attend the celebration.

"Playing with the Vikings was such an important part of Alan's career, and to have him honored really means a lot to the family and all of our friends who are assembling and former teammates and Vikings staff," she said. "He's the sum of all these parts and to honor not only the football, but the Page Foundation and his years with the court is very meaningful to him."

As Page prepares to transition from his service on the bench, he's going to continue work through the Page Education Foundation, which has donated more than $12 million for 9,000-plus higher education scholarships to help more than 6,000 Minnesota students of color. The foundation was launched in 1988 when Page was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dave Casper spent part of his Hall of Fame career with the Vikings, but only after facing Page while Casper was a member of the Oakland Raiders. Casper said he had great respect for Page as a competitor. When asked how great Page was as a player, Casper said "not as great as his life was, I'll tell you that."

"He had a great career and a great life after it. It makes you feel kind of like a slug," Casper said. "He's done a great job. He's a Notre Dame guy too, so we'd like to take some credit for it. We're very fortunate to have him part of our group, and the Vikings are very fortunate to have him as part of their group, so it's great."

Gene Washington knew Page as a competitor during their college days when Washington was a right end at Michigan State and Page was a right defensive end for the Fighting Irish.

"On a couple of occasions, I was glad I was on the right side because I didn't have to block him," Washington recalled of three head-to-head games between the schools: a Notre Dame win, a Michigan State win and a 10-10 tie that led to the declaration of both schools as co-national champions.

Washington and Page were then picked back-to-back (after Michigan State's Clinton Jones) in the first round of the 1967 NFL Draft. Washington said Page was a great teammate, and has made an impact through his commitment to the community.

"It says a whole lot about him as a person," Washington said. "I'm very impressed with his focus and determination and that carries well beyond just football and the idea of wanting to give back or be a part of the community. Not only as a football player, he's well-known in our state of Minnesota."

In addition to continuing to provide educational opportunities, Page plans to enjoy some relaxation at his family's Lake Washburn cabin, where he and his wife bottle maple syrup, and spend time with children and grandchildren.

"He's not retiring from that. Now he's a grandfather and loves his grandkids," Justin Page said. "He has many opportunities, but even if he didn't, he could at least provide daycare, so that's great."

Justin said his father managed to balance between a busy schedule and supporting his four children by attending their games, helping with homework or just enjoying time together.

"People ask, 'What's it like to have Alan Page as your father?' I say it's great, but I don't know anything different," Justin Page said. "To me, he's just dad."

Page also will create new goals — and likely reach them.

"In my view, it's relatively simple," Page said. "You figure out what you want to do and set about trying to do it, and sometimes you're successful. Sometimes you're more successful than others, sometimes you're not as successful, but a big part of it is the journey, as well as the end destination."

Nina Page said she calls her father "Old Faithful" because he'll run in any temperature.

"I don't know about any temperature because the coldest it's ever been is 35-below," Page said with a laugh. "At 36-below, I'm not so sure, but I haven't had that experience yet."

Here's to hoping that's one thing he never has an opportunity to accomplish.

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