Among the most impressive accomplishments in a life full of them for ex-Vikings great Alan Page is this: he simultaneously played for the Vikings and attended law school at the University of Minnesota. I’m trying to wrap my head around that in terms of today’s NFL. I cannot. But it happened nearly 40 years ago.
As luck would have it, David Huey — brother of the Star Tribune’s Pam Huey — was a law school classmate of Page’s. With Pam’s urging, David Huey wrote a first person account of one of his fondest memories of that time: when Page played a Monday Night game in San Francisco in 1976 — a nice bit of symmetry there with the Vikings set to play their opener this Monday night on the road against the 49ers as well — and still went to a 9 a.m. Tuesday law class back at the U of M.
You can read it below:
Like retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, I am a University of Minnesota Law School graduate, also retiring this year from the practice of law. I attended law school at the same time as Alan — but because he had a full-time job as a hard-nosed defensive tackle for the Vikings — he and I were on slightly different graduation schedules.
I saw Alan as a quiet and diligent student, but I didn’t realize just how diligent until we shared the same 9 a.m. first-year Property Law class. I remember in particular a Tuesday class following a Monday Night Football game the Vikings played in California in 1976 against the San Francisco 49ers. I don’t remember much about the game, but I recall it was well after midnight before I got to bed. (Editor’s note: Per Pro Football Reference, the game in question was Nov. 29, 1976, indeed a Monday Night game in San Francisco. It was one of just two losses for the Vikings that season in which they went to their fourth — and last, to date — Super Bowl. I was one month old at the time of the MNF game).
The next morning my alarm woke me at 6, in time to dress, grab a quick breakfast and catch the bus from our southwest Minneapolis home to make that class by 9. Having only about five hours of sleep, I flirted with the idea of rolling over and blowing off the class.
But the more responsible angels of my nature prevailed, and I headed for the bus and arrived at class just before the bell. As I took my seat, my sleep-laden eyes surveyed the assembled law students. It seemed as though class attendance was a little light — perhaps, I thought — because other football fans, exhausted by the rigors of watching late night football, may have surrendered to the lure of their pillows.
As I glanced around the class room that morning, I noticed a broad pair of shoulders standing in the doorway and blocking the early light. And then I recognized whose shoulders those were. It was Alan Page taking his seat in class.
Frankly, my cheeks flushed a little, ashamed for being such a wimp that just watching the football game had so worn me out that I contemplated cutting class. Here sat Alan, who had not only watched the game, he had played in it in front of a national audience and flown back from San Francisco with enough time and energy to show up for class in Minneapolis and participate.
It was a small incident but one that has stuck in my mind for these past 40 or so years, a revealing insight into the character of this man. He was preparing for the law with the same diligence and dedication that he brought to playing football. So it is no surprise that the same success that blessed his football career (he was inducted into both the college and pro Halls of Fame and hailed as the best defensive lineman to play the game) carried him through a long career as a jurist on Minnesota’s highest court.
I suspect that this same success will follow him in his next career, as a retiree. Welcome to retirement, Alan!I have already slept in a couple of mornings because in retirement there are no 9 a.m. classes.