Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House on Friday.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest honor, with notable recipients including Cicely Tyson and the late Aretha Franklin.
Page is one of seven distinguished individuals to receive the honor this year, CBS News reports. Three of the 2018 awards were given posthumously to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, singer Elvis Presley and baseball legend Babe Ruth. Former Dallas Roger Staubach, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Republican donor Miriam Adelson round out the list of honorees.
Page, 73, spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears, gaining a reputation for being one of the league's most formidable pass rushers. During his 12 years with Minnesota, the Vikings won four of the five conference titles he played in, and he was named the league's most valuable player in 1971, according to the Twin Cities Pioneers Press.
A nine-time Pro Bowler, Page also was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 and 1973. Page is one of the few players to have played on Minnesota's Super Bowl team in each of their four appearances.
The football star was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988. Long before his 1981 retirement from the league, Page was already preparing for a career in law. While still playing for the Vikings, the athlete became a student at the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating with a Juris Doctor in 1978.
Following retirement, he worked at the Minneapolis law firm Lindquist and Vennum from 1979 to 1984. Page was appointed special assistant attorney general in 1985 and was soon promoted to assistant attorney general.
In 1992, Page was elected to be an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, becoming the first person of color to serve on that court. Page was re-elected in 1998, again in 2004 and for a final time in 2010.
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio last year, the justice told host Gary Eichten he was drawn to the legal profession because "the law is about solving problems and helping people."
Unlike some of his fellow medal recipients, Page is an outspoken critic of President Trump.
"The current administration has played to the people’s worst fears and has played to people's racial insecurities," the storied athlete said in 2017. Page backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
Nevertheless, he is putting his opinions of the current administration aside as he accepts this accolade.
"The politics of this are somebody else’s problem," he said. "We live in a time when people would like to shed more heat than light, and I am more interested in shedding light."
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