Joe Kapp

Joe Kapp

Joseph Robert Kapp (born March 19, 1938 in Santa Fe, New Mexico) is a former professional American and Canadian football quarterback. Kapp is also a former college football head coach of the University of California, Berkeley, and a former general manager of the British Columbia Lions. Kapp played primarily with the NFL Minnesota Vikings and the CFL British Columbia Lions during the 1960-70's. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, the B.C. 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. 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. Sports Illustrated once called him "The Toughest Chicano."

College career

Kapp played college football for the University of California, Berkeley, where, in 1958, he led the team to a Pacific Coast Championship and the 1959 Rose Bowl, the school's most recent appearance. Kapp was named an All American in that same year. He also played basketball for the Golden Bears, and was on the 1956-1957 and 1957-1958 teams that won the Pacific Coast Championship. Kapp also played on the Bears team that went to the 1958 NCAA tournament. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from California in 1960.

Professional career

Canadian Football League

The NFL Washington Redskins drafted Joe Kapp in the 18th round of the 1959 draft and owned his rights to play professional football in the USA. 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 Calgary Stampeders.

For the 1959 CFL season, Kapp joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Then for the 1960 CFL season, Kapp led the Calgary Stampeders 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 B.C. 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. While 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 play in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and Houston Oilers were heavily pursuing him. Kapp decided to sign a contract with the Houston Oilers, but the B.C. Lions and the CFL complained to Pete Rozelle, the NFL’s commissioner accusing the Houston Oilers of tampering. Rozelle after his investigation, announced the Houston Oilers had indeed tampered by signing Kapp while he was under contract to the B.C. Lions, so he voided the contract.

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 Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He had spent the 1965 and 1966 seasons with the Vikings, but wanted to return to Canada. The B.C. Lions were very interested in acquiring Young , however 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 B.C. Lions traded all-star defensive lineman Dick Fouts, and future CFL Hall of Fame running back Bill Symons to the Toronto Argonauts for the CFL rights to future CFL 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. 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 Vikings, who had previously claimed his NFL playing rights from the Washington Redskins. On the other hand, Jim Young waived from the NFL signed with the B.C. Lions.

National Football League

In 1968, Kapp led the Minnesota Vikings to their first ever playoff game as a team against the Baltimore Colts. On September 28, 1969 in a game against the Colts, Kapp threw for 7 touchdown passes which still stands as the all-time record with 4 other players (Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda and Y.A. Tittle). Burk was one of the officials that worked the Kapp 7 td game. That same year, 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. That year, Kapp coined the phrase "40 for 60" meaning 40 players going all out for 60 minutes. 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 merged, 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.

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.

Inspite of 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 Kapp played poorly himself that season, leading the team to the league's worst record. When the year ended Pete Rozelle demanded that Kapp sign what is called a Standard Player Contract. After conferring with his lawyer and the NFL Players Association, Kapp refused to sign a new contract.

Kapp reported to the 1971 Boston Patriots training camp and was turned away. The headlines in the Boston papers read “KAPP QUITS!”. After this incident Kapp never played again.

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! and Medical Center. Movies included Two-Minute Warning, Breakheart Pass, The Frisco Kid among others.

University of California, Berkeley Head Football Coach

In 1982, after a brief acting career in such movies as The Longest Yard (as the Walking Boss), Two-Minute Warning (Charlie Tyler), and Semi-Tough (Hose Manning), Kapp was hired as the head football coach at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley. In his first year as head coach, he was voted the Pacific 10 Conference Coach of the Year.

In December of 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 October 2007, the Golden Bears have yet to return to the Rose Bowl and Kapp has resorted to drinking rum instead.

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 University.

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 4th, Kapp expressed frustration unzipping his pants in front of the Seattle media. He was notified that he would be released after the 1986 Big Game. The Bears responded 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 B.C. Lions

In an effort to recapture their past glory, the British Columbia Lions 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 Lion's schedule, his most valuable legacy was the signing of quarterback Doug Flutie, who would star in the CFL over the next decade.

High School career

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

Current life

Today, Kapp lives in the town of Los Gatos, California and makes himself available as a guest speaker. He has a wife and three children. He was one of the owners of Kapp's Pizza Bar & Grill in Mountain View, California, which contains memorabilia from his career.

References

Bibliography

  • 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

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