The Minnesota Vikings had three picks in the first round of the 1967 National Football League draft. With their first pick, the second selection overall, the Vikings took running back Clint Jones out of Michigan State University. In five years with the Vikings, Jones rushed for just a shade over 2,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. Good, but not by any stretch great.
With their next pick, the eighth overall selection, the Vikings took Jones' Spartan teammate, wide receiver Gene Washington. Washington. . .not to be confused with the Gene Washington who played wide receiver in the NFL and is now the league's Director of Player Operations, mind you. . .the "other" one. Washington also played six seasons with Minnesota, and racked up a little more than 3,000 yards receiving and caught 23 touchdown passes. Again, good. . .not great.
Their third pick in the first round that year came at number fifteen overall. . .and with that pick, the Vikings took a defensive tackle out of Notre Dame by the name of Alan Page. Page is not only one of the greatest players in Vikings history and in NFL history, but he may have managed to be even more successful off the football field
On the field, Alan Page was nothing short of a certifiable bad ass. Teaming with Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Gary Larsen, Page was part of one of the. . .if not the. . .greatest defensive line in the history of the league, the Purple People Eaters. In his twelve seasons with the Vikings, Page was credited with 108.5 sacks (even though sacks weren't officially kept as a statistic in Page's time). He played 218 consecutive games without an absence. . .which was only the third-longest streak on his own team (behind Jim Marshall's 282 straight and Mick Tinglehoff's 240 in a row), and during that time he was credited with 19 fumble recoveries.
Want some more? Well, the Associated Press established an award for the best defensive player in the National Football League. Alan Page was its first recipient. . .which would probably get a little more publicity if in that same year (1971) he hadn't become the first defensive player in league history to win a little award called the National Football League Most Valuable Player Award.
Yes, Alan Page was the first NFL Defensive Player of the year and the first defensive player to be the league MVP. And he did it in the same year.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, every year from 1969 to 1977. He was a six-time first-team All-Pro selection, every year from 1969 to 1975 (except 1972), and made the second-team three times (1968, 1972, 1976). He made the All-Conference team for ten consecutive years, and was a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade team, along with Eller. During the 1978 season, Page wound up with the Chicago Bears, and played with them for the rest of the 1978 season and for three years after that (during which no Viking fan wished for him to be injured or crippled in any way, because Viking fans are above such things). In that time, Page was credited with 40 more sacks, giving him 148.5 for his career.
Alan Page was enshrined in the National Football League Hall of Fame, fittingly enough, in 1988, and his number has been retired by the Minnesota Vikings. On a Sporting News list of the top 100 players in NFL history that was published in 1999, Page came in at number 34, the highest-ranked Viking on the list.
Off the field, Page has been an incredible success as well. He was the first black justice elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992, and has been re-elected three times (1998, 2004, and 2010). His current term will be his last, as the Minnesota State Supreme Court has a mandatory retirement age of 70 years old (Page will turn 66 in August).
Yes, one of the finest football players. . .and people. . .in the history of the league was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings 44 years ago. Draft picks don't come much better than Alan Page. . .even if he had to wait his turn behind a couple of Spartans to finally get to Minnesota.
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