It’s our second year of handing out postseason awards named for former NFL players who, for various reasons, deserve to have an award named after them, even if it’s a two-bit web site that’s doing it. The first prize for the 2008 season (regular and post) goes to the best defensive lineman of the year. And it’s named for former Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page. Some basic information about Page appears below, as borrowed from our 2007 write-up on this same topic. Alan Page was an undersized but overachieving defensive tackle in the days of three channels and computer the size of Winnebagos. I was introduced to him by a book from the NFL’s “Punt Pass and Kick” library, a ’70s-era not-so-subtle attempt at indoctrinating a generation of America’s youth. And it worked. On the cover of Gamebreakers of the NFL was a picture of Page with that old-time spiderweb facemask riding some poor sap from the 49ers to the ground. Thirty-six years later, I’ve still got the thing. Page was a dominant presence in the NFL in the years just before and just after the merger, anchoring the Purple People Eaters and winning the league’s MVP award in 1971. He earned a law degree while playing for the Vikings, and became a practicing attorney after his football career ended in 1981. Eleven years later, Page was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court, where he has served with distinction ever since. Page remains the best defensive tackle we’ve ever seen, and for his on-field exploits and post-football success we name the annual award given to one of the league’s defensive linemen after him. This year’s winner also plays for the Vikings, receiving more than 40 percent of PFT Planet polling among a field of six candidates. But we give the award to Jared Allen with some reluctance. He has had a checkered past, with multiple DUI offenses during his time in the NFL. But he has been clear for a couple of years now. We also have concerns about some of his on-field tactics. So does the league, as evidenced by the multiple fines imposed against him. But Allen plays the game with intensity and passion. Against the Lions, he thought he had suffered a torn ACL on a low hit from Gosder Cherilus. After chasing Cherilus around on one leg, Allen continued to play. The ultimate diagnosis was a sprained MCL. But Allen didn’t miss a start. Earlier in the year, Allen suffered a separated shoulder that left his arm hanging like a big salami from the ceiling of a deli. But he continued to play. And he didn’t miss a start. In fact, he started every game of the year, registering 14.5 sacks and two safeties. We’ve criticized him at times, made fun of him at others. But he strikes us as one of the few guys who would play the game the same way even if he wasn’t being paid a dime. So congratulations, Mr. Allen. Our only hope is that you continue to avoid the deadly combination of cocktails and car keys-- and that you watch the low hits on the quarterbacks’ knees.