Joe Kapp - Quarterback - 1961-66 - UCLA
Hannah Gordon, NFLPlayer.com, 4/12/2004
Joe Kapp is the only quarterback to lead teams to the Rose Bowl, Grey Cup, and Super Bowl. But he could have just as easily been a defensive end.
"I always said in fifty-some odd years being around some top-level players in the NFL and college, Joe Kapp was the one guy who could start in all 22 positions in college football," said John Ralston, an assistant coach on that University of California 1958 Rose Bowl team. Ralston, now with the College Football Hall of Fame spoke on a conference call discussing Kapp's recent election to the Hall.
"I don't care if you were playing at the University of Miami, the University of Nebraska, or Notre Dame, Joe Kapp would have played all 22 positions. That tells you how competitive he was," Ralston said. However, Kapp was destined to play under center.
"If you are competitive and good-looking, you got to play quarterback," Kapp chimed in. "Plus, it's more fun."
Kapp's path to football stardom started in Salinas, California, where Kapp hung from apricot trees. He had heard that Otto Graham was 6-2 and he figured he had to
do something since no one in his family was that big. He
liked to settle arguments, and that was one of the duties of the quarterback.
By the end of junior high, Kapp knew where he was headed thanks to a field trip his homeroom teacher arranged for a football game at the University of California.
"The cannon goes off and here comes the Cal band on the field. It was quite spectacular. I wanted to know how I could play in this stadium," said Kapp, who would later become an All-American at Cal. "College football was different then. College football was important."
As a senior in 1958, Kapp led his team to the Rose Bowl following a 1-9 season for one of the biggest season turnarounds in college football history. While at Cal, Kapp also lettered in basketball for two seasons under NCAA title-winning coach Pete Newell.
From Cal, Kapp became what he refers to as a "migratory football worker". After being drafted by the Washington Redskins, Kapp chose to play for the Canadian Football League because he was not offered what he felt was an acceptable contract. Up north, he led British Columbia to the Grey Cup in 1963 and 1964. Over his eight seasons in the CFL, Kapp became the second-most productive passer in league history and earned his place in the CFL Hall of Fame.
In 1967, Kapp returned to the United States to play for the Minnesota Vikings where he led the Vikes to their first winning record and first playoff appearance in 1968. In 1969, he took the team to its first-ever Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl IV. In Minnesota, Kapp coined the phrase "40 for 60" meaning 40 men playing together for 60 full minutes. Kapp refused to accept the team MVP award, saying that everyone was most valuable. He also declined the Vikings' contract extension offer following the season.
At that point, Kapp became part of NFL Players Association history, as well. The Patriots traded for Kapp's rights and he played for New England in 1970. However, he refused to sign the Standard Player Contract in 1971. Kapp went on to pursue a career in entertainment but sued the NFL in 1972 charging that certain rules of the NFL violated the antitrust laws and caused his "unlawful expulsion" from professional football in 1971. The NFL contended that it was immune from antitrust claims because of its collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA, which had finally received official recognition as a union in 1968 by the National Labor Relations Board. In 1974, a federal judge agree with Kapp that the NFL had indeed violated antitrust laws, in part because there was no collective bargaining agreement in place on the date in question. However, when the case went to trial, the jury found that Kapp had not been damaged.
Following his time in Hollywood, Kapp returned to his alma mater as head coach from 1982-1986. The most memorable moment of his tenure was “The Play” in the 1982 Cal v. Stanford game (the five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown and the win in the final play), an even which inspired him to coin yet another phrase, “The Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die!”
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