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Alan Page, who was part of arguably the best draft class in Minnesota Vikings franchise history, went on to become of the best players in NFL history.

The NFL and AFL had announced in June 1966 that the two professional football leagues would merge, beginning with the 1970 season. One of the first steps in the merger process was the first combined college draft for the two leagues in March 1967.

The Minnesota Vikings, who had finished tied for last in the West Division of the NFL in 1966 with a 4-9-1 record, ended up with three first-round picks — after two trades — in 1967.

With their third pick of the first round — the No. 15 overall choice — the Vikings selected Page. Page, a defensive end, had been a key member of a Notre Dame team, which went 9-0-1 in the 1966 season to claim the national championship. The Irish outscored their opponents, 362-38.

In his first training camp, the Vikings moved Page to defensive tackle. Page moved into the Vikings starting lineup in the fourth game of his rookie season. He was a starter for the rest of his 15-year NFL career.

In 1971, his fifth season, Page was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player — just the second defensive player to earn that honor. Page was credited with 109 solo tackles and 10 sacks in 1971. And his play was one reason Vikings coach Bud Grant and his staff established a new defensive statistic — "hurries." The statistic measured each time a defensive player forced an opposing quarterback to throw the ball before he wanted to. Page had 42 hurries in 1971.

During Page's 11½ seasons with the Vikings, they played in four Super Bowls. Page spent the final 3½ seasons of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears.

He was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 and 1973 and earned All-Pro honors six times. He was voted to nine straight Pro Bowls. In his career, which included 238 consecutive games, he finished with 173 sacks. He recovered 23 opponents' fumbles and according to unofficial statistics, he blocked 28 kicks.

In 1988, Page, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is located in his hometown of Canton, Ohio.

In his biography on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Page said his philosophy as a defensive player was rather than wait for the ball carrier, he sought him out. "A defensive player should think of himself more as an aggressor, not as a defender," he explained.

After retiring from football in 1981, Page had a long legal career. From 1993 to 2015, he was an associate justice on the Minnesota state Supreme Court.


Class: 1989.

Sport: Football.

Team: Vikings.