Alan Page — a University of Notre Dame football All-American, a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a former Minnesota Supreme Court judge — received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House Friday.
The former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle was among Trump’s first seven Medal of Freedom honorees, which included Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. Trump’s selections were announced last Saturday.
Page played 15 NFL seasons with the Vikings and Chicago Bears, developing a reputation as one of the league’s most fearsome pass rushers. The Vikings won four of the five conference titles he played during his 12-year stint with the team and he was named the league’s most valuable player in 1971. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Page also was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 and 1973.
Page was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. After his retirement from football, Page embarked on a legal career and served for more than two decades as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice before retiring in 2015.
Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; Miriam Adelson, a doctor and wife of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; former New York Yankee great Babe Ruth, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback star Roger Staubach and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is retiring after more than 41 years in the U.S. Senate, were the others honored at the White House ceremony.
Page was a three-year starting football defensive end and consensus All-American at Notre Dame before making the move to the NFL, where he was part of the Minnesota Vikings’ famed and feared “Purple People Eaters” defensive line.
Page led Notre Dame to Associated Press and United Press International national championships in 1966 and a combined 25-3-2 mark from 1964 to 1966.
A first-round draft pick and 15th overall, he went on to collect 164 career sacks, block 28 punts or placekicks, recover 24 fumbles and appear in eight Pro Bowls in a professional football career that spanned 15 seasons, including 10 as a member of the Vikings and five with the Chicago Bears.
In 1971, the four-time NFC defensive player of the year became the first defensive player in NFL history to earn the league’s most valuable player award. Page was elected to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1993.
Page has had just as big an impact in court as he did on the field. He set his sights early on a career in law, long before he developed an interest in football. Page worked his way through law school as a full-time student while maintaining his career as a professional football player. He earned his juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1978.
After retiring from football in 1981 and after a one-year stint as a commentator with National Public Radio, Page worked as an associate with Lindquist & Vennum before fulfilling responsibilities as a special assistant attorney general in the employment law division in Minnesota.
Page served as assistant attorney general for the state from 1987 until 1993 when he was elected to the state’s supreme court. In 1993, he earned a place in the annals of Minnesota state history by becoming the first African-American elected to sit on its Supreme Court.
A vocal proponent of education and a frequent speaker at elementary schools, Page and his late wife Diane established the Page Education Foundation in 1988 to help provide educational grants to students of color to attend colleges in Minnesota.
As a condition of receiving the funds, the so-called Page Scholars serve as role models and mentors for younger children with the goal of changing the future. Thus far, the foundation in 30 years has awarded 10,000 grants totaling $14 million to 6,750 students who have studied at 104 post-secondary schools across the state of Minnesota.
Page in 2004 was the 37th recipient of the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest award presented to a student-athlete.