Joe Kapp, who played quarterback at Cal and later led the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl, died Monday at age 85.
J.J. Kapp confirmed his father’s death to the San Francisco Chronicle, saying it came following a “15-year battle with dementia.”
Raised in California, Kapp played both football and basketball at Cal. On the field, the All-American led the Golden Bears to the Pacific Coast Conference championship in 1958 and onto the Rose Bowl. The Bears lost to Iowa in the 1959 game — the last appearance in the Rose Bowl for Cal.
Kapp spent eight seasons in the Canadian Football League, twice leading the British Columbia Lions to the Grey Cup title game. He moved to the NFL in 1967, leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl following a 12-2 season in 1969.
Minnesota lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-7. Still, Kapp is the only quarterback to lead teams to a Rose Bowl, Grey Cup and Super Bowl.
Kapp spent three seasons with the Vikings and signed with the Boston Patriots in 1970 after Minnesota didn’t offer him a new contract. After the season, commissioner Pete Rozelle intervened and declared the four-year contract Kapp signed with the Patriots was invalid. Rozelle ruled Kapp had to sign a revised contract to continue in the NFL, and Kapp never played again.
He finished his NFL career with a 24-21-3 record as a starter. He threw for 5,911 yards, with 40 touchdowns and 64 interceptions.
He filed an antitrust suit against the NFL and eventually won but wasn’t awarded any damages.
Kapp had small acting roles in films, including in “The Longest Yard,” in the 1970s. In 1982, he took over as head coach at Cal in his first-ever coaching job. He was the coach of the Bears during the Nov. 20, 1982, game against Stanford, when Cal improbably won with four seconds left in a contest marked by the Stanford band prematurely stepping onto the field.
Cal fired Kapp in 1986 after a 20-34-1 record.
In later years, as he struggled with dementia, Kapp said in an interview that he feared he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease afflicting many former football players.
J.J. Kapp said his father’s brain will be studied at UC San Francisco to determine whether Kapp was afflicted with CTE.
–Field Level Media