Cal legend Joe Kapp has died after a decade and a half long battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s. He was 85 years old.
On the shortlist of the greatest athletes in the history of the University of California, Kapp led the Bears to their final PCC Championship and Rose Bowl appearance in 1958-59 and achieved All-American status. He also played on the Cal men’s basketball team in 1956-58, winning two conference titles, as his initial scholarship to Berkeley was in hoops.
Kapp was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL Draft but instead chose to play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). In the CFL, Kapp played for the Calgary Stampeders and the British Columbia Lions. He led the Lions to the 1964 Grey Cup championship and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Kapp then tried out the NFL.In his first season with the team, he led them to a divisional championship and a Super Bowl appearance, where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Kapp's most notable game with the Vikings came in 1969 when he threw for 7 touchdowns in a single game, tying an NFL record. He is the only quarterback to play in a Rose Bowl, Super Bowl and Grey Cup.
After some time in the NFL and CFL as a player, executive and coach, Kapp then took over as Cal head coach in the early 1980s. He became known around Cal in his later years for promising never to drink a sip of tequila until Cal made another Rose Bowl, and would keep that promise for another four decades. His first year as coach included The Play, when Cal beat Stanford in the famous 1982 Big Game. His final game as coach was arguably the greatest Big Game upset ever, in a 17-11 upset of 16th ranked Stanford as 21-point underdogs.
Kapp’s legacy resonates from Berkeley, to the Latino community for being its first major NFL star, to his hometown of Salinas, to his children like Will Kapp (who played for Jeff Tedford at Cal), to his contributions to concussion research (his brain will be donated to UCSF to study the effects of CTE).
Hope you get a chance to pour your tequila up there soon Joe.
Rest in peace, son of California.
"The Bear will not quit, The Bear will not die" RIP, coach!
I attended several Cal football camps with Kapp as the head coach. We will NEVER have another HC who loved Cal football more than him. Unlike the head coaches that would follow him, he didn't speak "coach speak". He spoke from the heart as to what it took to be better football players. He valued taking personal responsibility for improving yourself physically, dedication to being a student of the mental parts, and playing through pain ("are you hurt or are you injured?"). Coach Kapp helped give Cal some of its greatest Big Game victories and I will always remember that.