Alan Page is not only one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play football, but he is one of the great ambassadors of the state and the Vikings organization. He not only was elected to the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame, but also served as an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court for 22 years.
Page, who reached the state Supreme Court mandated retirement age of 70 last August, also is a big part of Vikings lore because he played in all four Super Bowls in which the team participated.
With Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, Page was asked if the disappointment of losing four Super Bowls took away from the team’s other great accomplishments.
“The goal is to get there and obviously to win, but getting there is, I mean you look at the teams that never get there, I mean just never get there, and so getting there was ultimately what it’s all about,” Page said. “Then once you’re there, then it’s another football game you’re trying to win.”
Those Vikings teams were without question a dynasty, even if they never won a Super Bowl. Only 10 franchises in NFL history have appeared in more Super Bowls than the Vikings, and they reached all four within a nine-year period.
Page was one of 11 players to play in all four contests, along with Bobby Bryant, Fred Cox, Carl Eller, Wally Hilgenberg, Paul Krause, Jim Marshall, Mick Tingelhoff, Ed White, Roy Winston and Ron Yary.
Page said the accomplishment of four Super Bowl appearances, with that kind of player continuity, speaks for itself.
“That is part of what I was saying earlier, about it being important to get there,” he said. “To get there you have to be really good, you have to perform well.”
In each of the Vikings’ Super Bowl appearances, they played teams that had similar or greater talent. In their first Super Bowl against the Chiefs in 1970, they faced a great quarterback in Len Dawson and a superb defense led by former Gophers linebacker Bobby Bell. At that time, the Chiefs had the highest payroll in football.
Then they faced the Dolphins in 1974, quarterbacked by the great Bob Griese, with running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. The 1972 Dolphins are the only NFL team in history to go undefeated.
In 1975 they faced the Steelers, a dynasty that featured nine future Hall of Famers who played together for eight consecutive years in Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, and Mike Webster.
Their last Super Bowl opponent was the 1977 Oakland Raiders, who went 16-1 and were voted to be the greatest team in the history of the NFL in a 2012 NFL.com mock tournament.
Page said that while they faced great opponents, he didn’t think all of the teams were particularly better. Some of the losses, he said, were just because the Vikings didn’t play their best game.
“I mean obviously, the teams we played were good, and they played very well,” he said. “I’m not sure that — I mean, one or two of them we simply got outclassed — but I’m not sure that in a couple of them that we simply just didn’t play very well.”
Who did he think were the best teams the Vikings faced in the Super Bowl?
“I think Miami, they were very good, and Kansas City,” he said.
When it came to judging the greatness of Vikings teams he played on, Page had a hard time narrowing it down.
“Oh boy, you know that’s pretty hard to say. I mean ’69 was great, but ’70 wasn’t too bad and ’71 was not bad either,” he said. “I’d say one of those three.”
‘Just a circus’
While the hype surrounding the Super Bowl is much greater today, Page said the difference in the environment even back in the ’70s was monumental compared to a regular-season game.
“Well, as you know, it’s just a circus, and for the players it’s a major distraction,” he said. “But that comes with the territory.”
Did players like it?
“Well I certainly didn’t,” Page said with a laugh. “You know when you’re a player, you’re there on business. I mean I understood and understand that everything that surrounds the game is a key part of that, but when you’re trying to focus on the game itself, it is difficult to have all of those distractions.
“Admittedly everybody is distracted, the distractions are on both teams. It’s certainly not a reason to not play well or not perform well. But it just makes for a difficult week or two weeks.”
Page, who said he is working on projects including another children’s book with his daughter, Kamie, and spending time with his wife, Diane, was asked what he takes away from those Super Bowl seasons.
“I am proud just to have been a part of it,” he said. “To have shared the field with the likes of Jim Marshall and Carl Eller and Gary Larson and Doug Sutherland and Paul Dickson.”
Alan and Diane Page have made it possible for hundreds of young people to go to college with the great foundation they operate. Since 1988, more than 4,200 students have pursued their postsecondary education at Minnesota institutions with help of Page Grants from the Page Education Foundation. To date, more than 6,500 Page Grants have been awarded. That’s more than $13 million that have helped Minnesota students attend 104 institutions across the state.
• Armstrong linebacker Thomas Barber is the fourth family member to play with the Gophers. His father, Marion, played for the Gophers from 1977-1980. Brothers Marion Barber III played from 2001-2004 and Dom Barber from 2004-2007. Dom is now a Gophers recruiting assistant.
• One big reason the Timberwolves upset the Clippers on Wednesday night was that Andrew Wiggins had his first game with multiple three-pointers since Jan. 13. Wiggins finished the game with 31 points, his seventh game with 30 or more, and the second time he has had two consecutive 30-point games. The Wolves had lost 14 in a row to the Clippers, winning for the first time against them since Feb. 28, 2012.
• Held scoreless in the first half against the Clippers, Karl-Anthony Towns turned it around in the third quarter and shot 6-for-7 from the field. He was credited with 17 points and 12 rebounds, giving him his 27th double-double game, which leads all rookies and is tied for sixth in the NBA. … Gorgui Dieng wound up with his seventh double-double, and third in the past four games, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
• Despite their 15-36 record, the Wolves’ TV ratings are up 35 percent from last year and single-game ticket sales are up 12 percent. The team ranks 13th in single-game ticket sales.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org