Joe Kapp, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback and University of California head coach, died Monday at the age of 85 after 15 years battling dementia.

Kapp played in the Canadian Football League for eight years after his playing days with Cal, although he was drafted in the 18th round by Washington in 1959. Kapp led the BC Lions to their first Gray Cup in 1964 before signing with the Vikings in 1967. Trade-like transaction: The Lions waived Kapp so he could join the Vikings, and Minnesota waived pushing back Jim Young so the Toronto Argonauts Youngs trade CFL rights to BC.

Kapp only played three years for the Vikings, but he led Minnesota to its first and only NFL championship in 1969 – before merging with the AFL in 1970. The Vikings lost to the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.

During his time with the Vikings, Kapp threw for 4,807 yards, 37 touchdowns and 47 interceptions in 40 games. He is the only quarterback to have played in the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl and Gray Cup.

“Men like Joe Kapp are the cornerstones on which the Minnesota Vikings franchise was built,” Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said in a statement. “Joe’s tenacity and fighting spirit defined the Viking teams of his day, and his tenacity and leadership were respected by teammates and opponents alike. We mourn the loss of Joe with his family, friends and Viking fans around the world.”

Kapp coined the phrase “40 for 60” – meaning 40 men play for each other for 60 minutes – which the Vikings adopted as one of their key franchise mantras.

“Joe Kapp was a truly inspiring leader,” former Vikings receiver and teammate John Henderson said via the team website. “…We might not have had the greatest talent on our team, but we had an attitude, and Joe had a lot to do with that. He was a scrapper, he would give up his body, and if he could, we felt we could do the same thing, so we played for each other.”

Kapp ended his NFL career in 1970 with the Boston Patriots.

Joe Kapp led the Vikings to their first and only NFL title.  (Photo by Nate Fine/NFL)

Joe Kapp led the Vikings to their first and only NFL title. (Photo by Nate Fine/NFL)

Kapp’s post-playing career

After his NFL career ended, Kapp became an actor, playing minor roles in television shows and films, including The Longest Yard in 1974 and two episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.

Kapp became the head coach of his alma mater at Cal in 1982, despite having zero coaching experience. Kapp’s first season as head coach ended with “The Play” — where Cal defeated Stanford for a touchdown on a wild kickoff return to win the game as the Cardinal band ran onto the field. He coached the Golden Bears for five seasons and compiled a 20-34-1 record.

Kapp later became general manager of the CFL Lions for two years from 1990 to 1992. In 1992, he coached the Arena Football League’s Sacramento Attack for a season.


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