The Vikings hosted the youth scholars of legend Alan Page's Education Foundation at OTA practice number 10 at the TCO Performance Center.
EAGAN, Minn. – It took a moment for Justice Alan Page to gather his thoughts.
The Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice visited Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center Thursday. Upon arrival, he received a surprise.
Vikings Associate Counsel Sam Aintablian, on behalf of the Wilf family ownership group, presented Page with a donation of $40,000 for the Page Education Foundation. The nonprofit was among recipients of funding from the $250,000 commitment made last fall by the Wilfs in support of the NFL's "Inspire Change" initiative to support social justice.
"I wasn't expecting this. Thank you so much," Page said in response to the generous gift.
After a pause, however, Page asked to share a few words with the Vikings and Page Education Foundation staff members, as well as eight scholarship recipients who joined Page for the experience at the team's headquarters.
Page shared an anecdote to illustrate the Vikings support of the Page Education Foundation, which was started by he and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with his 1988 enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Shortly after Page announced the start of his foundation, the Vikings donated the proceeds from the sale of eight suites to the Page Education Foundation. The suites were sold for the Vikings-Eagles game during which Page's No. 88 jersey was retired by the franchise.
In addition, the Vikings passed buckets throughout the stadium to collect donations from fans.
"And the 'pass-the-hat,' it just was astounding to me – $66,000 in change. I don't know who counted it all," Page quipped. "So that relationship goes back a long ways and is critically and vitally important.
"Needless to say, my relationship goes back beyond that," continued Page, who starred for the Vikings from 1967-78. "I think it's fair of me to say that I am proud of that relationship, proud of the time that I spent here as a member of this organization, and I'm proud of our Page Scholars, who are really all of our hope for the future."
Turning toward the college students, Page said the following:
"You Scholars are the ones who are going to be the next generation of contributors to this community, as the Vikings are today, as Diane and I have been over the years. You're the next generation. So, this is a good place to celebrate."
Following the check presentation and Page's address to the group, the Page Scholars toured TCO Performance Center and attended a portion of the Vikings voluntary Organized Team Activity practice.
A majority of the team stopped by afterward to greet the students and autograph footballs that the Vikings provided. One young man wearing a purple Kirk Cousins jersey excitedly greeted the quarterback, who was happy to sign the jersey before spending a few minutes chatting with Page.
Page emphasized the value of the experience "on a number of levels" for the group.
"First of all, who doesn't want to meet a Minnesota Viking? Who doesn't want to experience this beautiful facility?" Page said. "But more importantly, it gives our Scholars [an inside perspective] that professional football, professional athletics, is more than just what happens on the football field, and that there are opportunities for them and everybody else, presumably, both on and off the field.
"We think about professional sports, and we see what goes on between the lines," Page added. "We don't think about everything that goes on to make that possible. And I think it's important for our Scholars to be able to see that."
The Hall of Fame defensive tackle willingly took a back seat to the post-practice activity, standing back a few feet and watching the interactions with a smile on his face.
"It certainly looks like they're having a good time," he commented.
University of St. Thomas senior Mohamed Mahamud, who plays wide receiver for the Tommies, especially appreciated the opportunity to observe the Vikings practice and meet a number of players.
View images from the Vikings OTA practice on June 6 at the TCO Performance Center.
"I know it's a really hot day, so they could just run back inside to the cold tub or the locker room, and I didn't expect that long of a line for players to come by," Mahamud said. "It definitely means a lot – it shows the level of commitment [the Vikings] have to the community and how much they care about us being a part of their culture and coming to their practice."
He expressed his gratitude to the Page Education Foundation, which requires its grant recipients to spend at least 50 hours volunteering with youth. Mahamud has been tutoring seventh graders at Field Community School in Minneapolis, where he attended as a youngster.
"It means a lot to be a Page Scholar," Mahamud said. "There's a strong sense of giving back to the community, and that's what Justice Page is doing for us."
Xavier Walden, entering his senior year at the University of Minnesota, also appreciates the foundation's pay-it-forward focus.
Walden said he was passionate about becoming a Page Scholar because he recognized that many young people don't have resources and support regularly available. A native of St. Paul, Walden now regularly volunteers with local Boys & Girls Clubs.
"By doing [the Page Education program], I get scholarship money to further my education in school, and then I get to give back to my community, which is beautiful," Walden said.
After meeting Laquon Treadwell at a past Boys & Girls Clubs gala, Walden enjoyed reconnecting with the receiver.
"He actually remembered me, so that was pretty dope," said Walden, who also was excited to meet cornerback Xavier Rhodes. "We've got the same name, and he's nasty on defense, so I like him a lot, too."
Page may have avoided the frenzy of action, but he was greeted warmly by several Vikings, including Cousins, Adam Thielen and Harrison Smith. He exchanged a friendly fist bump with Eric Kendricks.
Looking on, Walden noted not only Page's continued relationship with the Vikings but his willingness to include the young people he cares so deeply for.
"He's just so accomplished. He played in the NFL; he was a [Supreme Court] Justice," Walden said. "The fact that he's still coming back to kids like me, from St. Paul, and helping us is really [incredible]. And I hope to do the same thing in the future."
After practice, the Page Scholars were able to visit the Vikings Museum and have lunch in The Huddle, the café at Vikings headquarters.
The Page Education Foundation has now benefitted Twin Cities youth for more than 30 years, and its impact continues to be widespread. Since its inception, the foundation has provided more than 6,750 Page Grants totaling $14 million in financial support. Those Page Scholars have volunteered more than 420,000 hours in their communities.
For the upcoming school year, Page expects the foundation to select approximately 560 new Page Scholars who will work with the younger generation to "send a strong, clear message that education is a tool they can use to achieve whatever their hopes and dreams may be."
"And through that process, our Scholars grow and develop," Page said. "It really benefits – in addition to the Scholars and the children they work with – the community at large. And we're pretty excited about that. So, this check will go a long ways towards continuing the work that we do."
The day was a bittersweet one for Page, who desires to carry on the legacy and mission of Diane, who passed away last October after a battle with cancer.
"She was the heart and soul of the Page Education Foundation. She was as committed as anyone that I know to racial justice, to social justice and to creating opportunity for all," Page said, his voice full of emotion. "It is in her honor and memory that we continue the work that she was every bit as responsible for as me. I mean, I'm sort of the pretty face, which is kind of scary."
Page lingered for a moment, then smiled.
"Actually, she was the pretty face – and the heart and soul," he said. "She would be so excited to know what we had here today took place."