Vikings pass rushers past and present stood tall together at Cedar Park Elementary in Apple Valley during the team’s annual effort to build a playground for a Twin Cities area public school.
That goes especially for the 6-foot-6-inch Danielle Hunter and Alan Page, the 6-foot-4-inch legend and Hall of Famer. The pair met for the first time Thursday next to a pile of mulch, which wasn’t totally unlike one of the many quarterbacks either has corralled.
Hunter said he was humbled to meet Page. The hulking defensive end entering his third NFL season was even more taken back when he learned, during their conversation Thursday, that he’d broken one of Page’s Vikings franchise records last season.
“Yeah, he said I beat his record I think by a few months being the youngest pass rusher to get the most sacks, something like that,” Hunter said before being handed a rake. “I knew about him, but that was my first time actually meeting him face-to-face.”
Hunter led the Vikings with 12.5 sacks last season as a dynamic pass-rush specialist and rotational end coming off the bench. He did so at 22 years and two months old, breaking Page’s Vikings team record as the youngest defender to lead the team in sacks. The record had stood for 48 years.
Page got edged by just two months, having led the Vikings in sacks as a rookie in 1967 at 22 years and four months old.
“Kind of shocked by it, but at the same time kind of humbled,” Hunter said. “I just knew he was a great pass rusher, got inducted into the Hall of Fame. I guess that’s a good thing if you’re able to beat somebody’s record like that.”
Yeah, it’s not bad.
Hunter nudged the 71-year-old Page’s arm with a respectful “sorry” upon learning his record.
Page, who was the first black member of the Minnesota Supreme Court, still has nine Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pro selections, one NFL MVP award and a gold jacket over the young Hunter, who is just starting what should be his own lengthy NFL career.
“More power to him,” Page said. “Somebody else will break any other records I may have. That’s what those things are for — for somebody to strive to do better.”
Well, Page has some records that can’t be broken. Like when he was the first defender to be named NFL MVP in 1971 by the Associated Press. He was also the first active NFL player to complete a marathon when he did so in 1979.
And Page still edged Hunter with 19.5 sacks in his first two Vikings seasons. Hunter had 18.5 sacks.
Hunter has still set a high bar for himself in just two NFL seasons. He has only one start, but that’s likely to change this season. He’s been the Vikings starting left defensive end during two Organized Team Activity practices open to reporters as veteran Brian Robison rotates in from the sideline.
“I haven’t really sat down and thought about it yet, I just go day-by-day, week-by-week,” Hunter said. “But now that you said that, this is year three for me already — it just came up like that. I’m extremely blessed to be on a good team with good teammates and good coaches. That’s what it’s all about for me.”