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Joe Kapp

Joe Kapp
No. 11, 22
Joe Kapp in 1960
Date of birth: (1938-03-19) March 19, 1938 (age 82)
Place of birth: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Career information
CFL status: International
Position(s): QB
College: California
NFL Draft: 1959 / Round: 18 / Pick: 209
Drafted by: Washington Redskins
As coach:
Sacramento Attack
As player:
Calgary Stampeders
BC Lions
Minnesota Vikings
Boston Patriots
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star: 1963, 1964
CFL West All-Star: 1963, 1964
Retired #s: BC Lions #22
Career stats
Playing stats at

Joseph Robert Kapp (born March 19, 1938) is a former professional American and Canadian football quarterback. He is also a former college football head coach of the University of California, and a former general manager of the CFL's BC Lions. Kapp played primarily with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and the CFL's BC Lions during the 1960-70s. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, the BC Lions Wall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame. Kapp's #22 jersey is one of eight numbers retired by the Lions.[1] In November 2006, Kapp was voted to the Honour Roll of the CFL's top 50 players of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN.[2] Sports Illustrated once called him "The Toughest Chicano."[3] Kapp is the only player to quarterback in the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, and the Grey Cup.

Early years

Kapp played quarterback for William S. Hart High School, located in Newhall, California.

College career

Kapp played college football for the University of California, where he led the team to a Pacific Coast Championship in 1958 and the January 1, 1959 Rose Bowl, losing to Iowa. This was the University of California, Berkeley's most recent Rose Bowl appearance. Kapp was named an All-American in that same year. He was also awarded the 1958 W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. A two-sport athlete and fraternity member of Kappa Alpha Order in college, he also played varsity basketball for the Golden Bears, and was on the 1956-57 and 1957-58 teams that won the Pacific Coast Championship. He earned a bachelor's degree in physical education from California in 1959.

Professional career

Canadian Football League

Kapp was drafted in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, who owned his rights to play professional football in the United States. After the draft, Washington did not contact him, so his only choice was to accept the offer from Jim Finks, the general manager of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.

Kapp joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL for his rookie season in 1959. The following year, Kapp led Calgary to their first playoff appearance in years. The season was a difficult one, because he injured his knee against the Toronto Argonauts early in the season, but did not miss any games, because he played heavily taped.

In 1961, the BC Lions, then the CFL's newest franchise, traded four starting players to the Calgary Stampeders for Joe Kapp. The move paid off for the Lions when Kapp led the team to a Grey Cup appearance in 1963. The following season, Kapp led the Lions to their first Grey Cup victory in 1964. However, the Lions proved unable to defend their championship in 1965.

By that time, Joe Kapp had proven he was an elite quarterback, and also developed the reputation of being a tough player and a great leader. While most quarterbacks dislike being hit, Kapp was the opposite. He loved to hit and when he took off on a run he’d try to run over defenders.

Before the 1967 season, Joe Kapp made the decision to return to the U.S. to play pro football. The AFL's Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and Houston Oilers were heavily pursuing him.

Kapp ended up signing with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings in a multi-player "trade" between the CFL and NFL teams, one of the very few transactions to ever occur between the two leagues.

The Minnesota Vikings in 1965 had drafted running back Jim Young out of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He had spent the 1965 and 1966 seasons with the Vikings, but wanted to return to Canada. The BC Lions were very interested in acquiring Young, but the Toronto Argonauts had his CFL rights.

The Minnesota Vikings general manager was Jim Finks, who had brought Kapp to Canada in 1959, and their head coach was Bud Grant who had faced Kapp while coaching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Both Finks and Grant thought Joe Kapp would be the best replacement for Fran Tarkenton who had been traded to the New York Giants. To make this transaction possible, the BC Lions traded all-star defensive lineman Dick Fouts, and future Canadian Football Hall of Fame running back Bill Symons to the Toronto Argonauts for the CFL rights to future Canadian Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jim Young. They then managed getting Kapp waived out of the CFL.

The Minnesota Vikings managed getting Jim Young waived out of the NFL, which allowed the BC Lions to sign him. The expansion New Orleans Saints wanted Young and it took some work from Finks to keep them from claiming Young.

Kapp, waived from the CFL, was free to sign with the Minnesota, who had previously claimed his NFL playing rights from Washington.

National Football League

1967 was Kapp's first season in the NFL, and he started 11 of 14 games for the Minnesota Vikings, compiling an unusual record of 3 wins, 5 losses and 3 ties. Kapp completed only 47 percent of his pass attempts with 8 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Joe also scored 2 rushing touchdowns. Of note, the team was winless without Kapp starting at quarterback.

In 1968, Kapp led the Minnesota Vikings to their first ever playoff appearance, losing to the Baltimore Colts, 24-14. The Colts were upset a few weeks later by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

On September 28, 1969, Kapp threw for 7 touchdown passes against the Baltimore Colts, which still stands as the all-time record with 6 other players (Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y. A. Tittle, Nick Foles and Peyton Manning). Burk was one of the officials that worked the Kapp 7-touchdown game. Kapp led the Vikings to a 12-2 record, and a berth in Super Bowl IV after defeating the Cleveland Browns 27-7 in the last NFL Championship game ever played. However, he was unable to lead the team to victory in the Super Bowl, as the Vikings lost 23-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1970, the NFL and AFL consummated a merger that had been agreed to in 1966, and the NFL Championship game was no more after 50 years of NFL competition. On July 20, 1970, Sports Illustrated dubbed Kapp "The Toughest Chicano" on the cover of its weekly magazine. He received the team MVP, but refused the team MVP award, saying, "There is no one most valuable Viking. There are 40 most valuable Vikings" [4]

Prior to the 1969 season, the Minnesota Vikings had exercised the option clause of his contract, so Kapp had played the entire season without a new contract. It was unusual and unprecedented for teams to use the team’s option and not to offer a new contract prior to a season. This dispute made him a free agent for the 1970 season, by the NFL's own rules.

Despite being a Super Bowl quarterback, no teams in the NFL made contact with Kapp until September of the 1970 season, when the Boston Patriots signed him to a four-year contract, making him the highest paid player in the league. Pete Rozelle stepped in and forced the Boston Patriots to give up two number one draft picks as compensation to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Boston Patriots of 1970 were a poor-performing team and the late-arriving Kapp played poorly himself that season, leading the team to the league's worst record at 2-12. When the year ended Pete Rozelle demanded that Kapp sign a Standard Player Contract. After conferring with his lawyer and the NFL Players Association, Kapp refused to sign a new contract.

With the top pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected a quarterback, Jim Plunkett of Stanford. Kapp reported to the newly renamed New England Patriots' training camp in 1971 and was turned away. The headlines in the Boston papers read “KAPP QUITS!”. After this incident Kapp never played again, his 12-year career as a professional football player was over.

Kapp started an anti-trust lawsuit vs. the NFL claiming the standard NFL contract was unconstitutional and a restraint of trade. He won the Summary Judgment after four years. The court had ruled that Joe Kapp’s trade was indeed restrained. It was two years later (April 1, 1976) in the trial for damages, that the jury decided that Kapp was not damaged.

Although Kapp was not awarded any damages, in 1977 the rules at issue in the Kapp case were later revised, a new system was instituted, and a multi-million dollar settlement was made between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

Post-football playing career

Acting career

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kapp appeared in several television programs as well as theatrical film titles. In most cases, the character roles were minor. Programs included Adam-12, Emergency!, Police Woman and Medical Center. Movies included Two-Minute Warning, Breakheart Pass, The Frisco Kid,The Longest Yard, and Semi-Tough.

California head coach

In 1982, Kapp was hired as the head football coach at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley. He had never coached before.[5] In his first year as head coach, he was voted the Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

In December 1981, Kapp made a promise to the football team that he would not consume any of his favorite alcoholic beverage, tequila, until the Golden Bears reached the Rose Bowl. As of March 2011, the Golden Bears have yet to return to the Rose Bowl and Kapp has resorted to drinking rum instead.[6]

Kapp had several philosophies while coaching at Cal. He called his special teams the "special forces." He told his players to play "One hundred percent for 60 minutes." He also wanted the players to have fun. On Sundays, he would have his players play a game of "garbazz," described as a mix of basketball and football where the only objective is to pass the ball downfield. There are no football rules such as offsides or forward passes.[5]

Kapp was the coach during The Play, the famous five-lateral kickoff return by the Cal team to score the winning touchdown on the final play of the 1982 Big Game against arch rival Stanford.

During the 1986 college football season, the Bears lost to Boston College, defeated Washington State, then lost to San Jose State. Following an embarrassing 50-18 loss at Washington on October 4, Kapp expressed frustration unzipping his pants in front of the Seattle media.[7] He was notified that he would be released after the 1986 Big Game, played in Berkeley. The Bears responded to the student section's pre-game chants of "Win one for the zipper" by beating the #16 ranked and Gator Bowl-bound Cardinal 17-11. This gave Kapp a 3-2 record in the Big Game. He was carried out of the stadium amid chanting from the student section, "We Want Kapp!", echoing a cheer from his playing days with the Boston Patriots.

General manager of the BC Lions

In an effort to recapture their past glory, the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL) hired Kapp as the team's new general manager in 1990. Kapp's tenure was marked by his tendency to recruit ex-NFL players such as Mark Gastineau whose best football days had already expired. Kapp was fired 11 games into the Lions' schedule, his most valuable legacy was the signing of quarterback Doug Flutie, who would star in the CFL over the next decade.

Sacramento Attack head coach

In 1992, Kapp was named the head coach of the Los Angeles Wings,[8] but the franchise never came into existence in Los Angeles, and moved to Sacramento as the Attack.[9] The franchise went 4-6 under Kapp, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Detroit Drive. After the season, the franchise moved to Miami, Florida.

Personal life

Kapp lives in Los Gatos, California, and makes himself available as a guest speaker. He has a wife and four children and two grandchildren. He was one of the owners of Kapp's Pizza Bar & Grill in Mountain View, California, which contained memorabilia from his career. His son, Will, followed in his footsteps as a fullback at UC Berkeley.[10] Daughter, Gabrielle is in a relationship with NFL linebacker, Kiko Alonso.

Kapp and fellow Canadian Football Hall of Fame player Angelo Mosca came to blows at a 2011 Canadian Football League Alumni luncheon. The source of the bad blood between Kapp and Mosca is a hit Mosca made on Kapp's teammate Willie Fleming in the 1963 Grey Cup game. The hit, which Kapp and many others considered dirty, forced Fleming out of the game. Mosca's Tiger-Cats defeated Kapp's Lions 21-10 for the 1963 championship.[11]

Video clips

Canadian Football Hall of Fame member on YouTube


  1. ^ "BC Lions Retired Numbers". Retrieved 2006-08-20. 
  2. ^ "TSN Top 50 Honour Roll". 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  3. ^ Cover, Sports Illustrated," July 20, 1970
  4. ^ "Joe Kapp, NFL Quarterback". Retrieved 2002-04-08. 
  5. ^ a b Fimrite, Ron (1983-09-01). "The Anatomy of a Miracle". Sports Illustrated. pp. 212–228. 
  6. ^ Cheatham, Dan (May 3, 1994). "Interview with Joe Kapp". Cal Band Archive. 
  7. ^ Reilly, Rick - Coming Out of the Desert Darkness with the Sun Devils. Sports Illustrated, November 17, 1986
  8. ^ Lonnie White (March 6, 1992). "Joe Kapp to Coach New L.A. Team : Arena football: The sport attempts comeback in city. Club will play at Sports Arena.". Los Angeles Time. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  9. ^ Shav Glick (April 22, 1992). "L.A. Arena Football Team Scrubs Plans for Season". Los Angeles Time. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  10. ^ Cal Bears
  11. ^ Toni Monkovic (November 28, 2011). "Joe Kapp, the C.F.L. and a 48-Year-Old Grudge". New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2013. 


  • Olsen, Jack - He Goes Where The Trouble Is. He is Joe Kapp, wandering quarterback, and last week he was in Kansas City, playing for the Boston Patriots, who are in deep trouble. Despite Kapp, the Pats lost, but wait until the new boy learns the system. Sports Illustrated, October 19, 1970

External links