With an injured pinky from his playing days that still forms a right angle, the message from Alan Page to the current crop of Vikings was also the right angle.
Page, the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle, spoke with Vikings players and the coaching staff huddled in the middle of Blakeslee Field Wednesday morning toward the end of their walk-through. His message was simple, but it was right in line with what head coach Mike Zimmer has been preaching for the last eight months and Zimmer acknowledged the similarities.
“Not that I’m the smart guy, but he just talked about what it takes to win, what it takes to be a great player,” Zimmer said.
Center John Sullivan summarized Page’s impromptu speech to the players this way: “It was just about making the most of our opportunities and how it really comes down to how we control the outcome of this season and if you want to be a successful team, limit your mistakes. It’s a simple message, but it’s the right message to be conveyed.”
Page played for the Vikings from 1967-78 and the final three seasons of his decorated career with the Chicago Bears. He was a four-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year and was the first defensive player to ever win the NFL MVP Award.
He played in 236 straight games after being a first-round draft pick in 1967, recording 148½ sacks, 1,120 tackles, 23 fumble recoveries and 28 blocked kicks.
“The thing back when he played and even now in the NFL, the talent level is so even. The thing that separates teams is minimizing mistakes,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said of Page’s comments. “That’s something that Coach Zimmer has preached since he got here. It fit right in line with Coach Zimmer’s message and I think guys will respond very well to that.”
It didn’t go unnoticed by Rudolph or Sullivan that Page was a graduate of Notre Dame, their alma mater, too. Both of them knew of Page when they were at Notre Dame and got to meet him a few times before his speech on Wednesday.
Since his Notre Dame and Vikings’ days, Page has carved out an impressive post-football career, earning his law degree while playing for the Vikings. He worked himself up to the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and still serves there.
“I had heard of him when I played at Notre Dame, and then coming here, I think is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard him speak,” Sullivan said. “Obviously his career speaks for itself – the first all-defensive player to win the NFL MVP award. And then serving on the State Supreme Court. The guy has had an incredible life, incredibly accomplished.
“You see the type of career he had on the field and then you also see he’s made something of himself after his playing career. It’s inspirational, really, for all the guys.”
Zimmer has made a point to embrace the Vikings alumni since being named head coach in January. In June, the Vikings closed training camp by hosting about a dozen alumni for a barbeque that current players also attended.
“He’s done an incredible job of bring guys back around that are still here in Minnesota,” Rudolph said. “Anytime we have an opportunity to meet those guys and chat with them, it’s good for us.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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