It's close to impossible to define Alan Page by any singular accomplishment. He spent the bulk of his Hall of Fame NFL career with the Vikings. He was a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court. And he started the Page Education Foundation in 1988 to improve access to higher education for students of color. Page, 71, touched on all those facets of his life and more in a recent interview with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand.
Q What was the impetus for the Page Education Foundation and the gala event Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium?
A We started it back in 1988 with the goal of encouraging, motivating and assisting young men and women of color to pursue education beyond high school. We do that in two ways. One is providing financial assistance, and two, more importantly, we require our grant recipients — we call them Page Scholars — to spend 50 hours per academic year working with young children in kindergarten through eighth grade. They act as tutors, mentors and role models.
Q Education has been important to you. I recall a story of you playing in a Monday night road game and traveling back in time for a Tuesday morning class at the U of M Law School. How were you able to strike that balance between sports and education?
A I don't know that I would call it striking a balance. It's recognizing what's important and managing your time to do those things you have to do — whether it's on the football side, the law side, the academic side.
Q Did you feel different from a lot of your peers in the game at that point?
A I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about that. I was on my own path and others were on their own path.
Q What are your impressions of the new stadium?
A It's dramatically and strikingly impressive. It's airy, it's open, it's about as close to being outdoors as you can be indoors. I think it's spectacular.
Q Would you have wanted to play in a facility like that?
A Well, if you had to play indoors you'd want it like that. But I grew up with football as an outdoor sport, and it will always be that.
Q Switching gears here a little, a big subject recently has been 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not standing during the national anthem. What are your thoughts on athletes using their platform as a means of advancing social justice causes?
A I see nothing wrong with it at all. We all have views of things, and athletes do have a platform. As long as you do what you do responsibly, it's probably just fine. And quite frankly, as has been pointed out, he's taken that position because of disparities in treatment of people of color. It is interesting that there is more outrage or interest in his failure to stand than in the underlying issue. The underlying issue is something that is real, tangible and affects people on a daily basis.
Q From whatever distance you've watched, what is your impression of the current Vikings defense?
A From a distance, my impression is that they're going to be pretty good. But the secret is in the doing and not the talking. If they go out and play not only how they're capable but as a team, good things will happen.