Former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp dies at 85


Joe Kapp, who led the Vikings to an appearance in Super Bowl IV, has died. He was 85.

Kapp’s son, J.J., confirmed the passing of Joe Kapp in an email to the San Francisco Chronicle. J.J. Kapp said that his father died after a “15-year battle with dementia.”

Joe Kapp played college football at Cal, entering the NFL draft in 1959. Selected in round 18 by Washington, Kapp opted instead to go to the CFL. He won a Grey Cup with the B.C. Lions in 1964, and he eventually played his way toward an opportunity in Minnesota, where he followed Fran Tarkenton and partnered with first-year Minnesota coach Bud Grant.

In Kapp’s third year, the Vikings won the NFL championship, before losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. It was the final game before the merger of the two leagues.

During Minnesota’s 1969 season, Kapp threw seven touchdown passes in one game, a record shared by seven others, including Super Bowl MVPs Peyton Manning, Nick Foles, and Drew Brees.

Kapp also was a strong proponent of player rights. He forced his way to free agency in 1970, sort of. (The Patriots had to give up a pair of first-round picks to sign him.) In 1971, Kapp sued the NFL, arguing that the standard NFL contract violates antitrust laws. His lawsuit eventually led to major changes in the way the NFL did business with players.

Kapp became an actor, appearing in various TV shows and movies. He is perhaps best known for playing the Walking Boss in the original version of The Longest Yard.

In 1982, Kapp was hired as the head coach at Cal, despite having no coaching experience. In his first year, he was named Pac-10 coach of the year. That same season, “The Play” happened in the final seconds of the annual rivalry against Stanford, with Cal winning on a series of desperate laterals on a kickoff return that ended the game.

Kapp coached Cal through the 1986 season. He last coached in 1992, leading the Sacramento Attack of the Arena Football League.

We extend our condolences to Kapp’s family, friends, teammates, players, and colleagues.

44 responses to “Former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp dies at 85

  1. I hope Kapp rests in peace and his family finds comfort.

    Kapp lived to an old age, but it seems like he probably suffered from CTE and had a very reduced quality of life due to the disease for many years. He played youth through pro football from the 1950s through the 1970s, a period when the dangers of returning to play quickly after a concussion were not understood. Kapp and his family were far from alone in suffering because boys, young men, grown men, and their families did not understand the dangers of head trauma at that time. I hope the suffering of former players and their families is greatly reduced or even eliminated (a dream) some day soon.

  2. Remember Kapp was the running QB who just barreled over people. Tough guy

  3. RIP Joe Kapp and Bud Grant. Back in the day when football players were tough in the Vikings glory years. Seems like its been forever.

  4. Mike, I’m sure you would’ve enjoyed watching Kapp’s games. The 1969 NFL Championship against Cleveland might’ve been Kapp’s finest hour. Sliding, no way, running out of bounds, not a chance, running over a LB, you bet! Whenever one of the old timers passes away, it always takes me on a trip down memory lane and makes me think about what drew me to football to begin with.

  5. Joe Kapp had one of the classic movie lines ever in The Longest Yard. “Not today, boy!” Those mirrored sunglasses…

  6. The reason I’m a life-long Viking fan. Dude was a straight up baller. Rest well, Joe Kapp.

  7. Joe was one of the first QBs I latched onto as a kid…4 and 5 years old…I was an Eagles fan, but Joe was way cooler than Roman Gabriel, so I was jealous.

    RIP, Joe!

  8. I was born the same year as the Vikings, and that ’69 team was something else. RIP, Joe.

  9. In the SB against the Chiefs, Joe was flinging it down the field, 65 yards but the receivers couldnt make a play …

  10. Played in (and won) the Grey Cup. Played in the Rose Bowl. Played in the Super Bowl. Played in the NCAA basketball tournament. Quite a run.

  11. Not a fan of the team’s fans but condolences to his family from Packer Fan Number 2.

  12. Joe & Lenny gone within a year of each other….the two QB’s of SB IV…Peace be your Journey

  13. RIP, Poor guy’s health suffered greatly later in life all because of a sport. At least he was able to make his dreams come true, think about how many thousands of men suffer through injuries for this sport that never make, and then become a burden on our health care system.

  14. The first Viking QB I remember. Tough as nails and a great leader. I recall one game he broke from the pocket, tried to hurdle a LB, the LB stood him up, Joe gets up and runs to the huddle, and the LB is left laying on the ground out cold. I hope those last years weren’t too bad for him and his family.

  15. Kapp was a tough cookie. Remember seeing him in the Six Million$ Man and Longest Yard. Terrible that he fought dementia for so long. RIP Mr Kapp.

  16. “RIP Mr. Kapp you were a great warrior (Packers fan).”

    So it’s true, after all. There are classy folk on both sides of the Great Midwestern Divide.

  17. If I remember correctly,… he was a tough guy who happened to be a darn good QB. Best wishes and condolences to the family

  18. This was the first Super Bowl I remember watching. I wanted the Vikings to win so bad, NFL > AFL. Joe Kapp is a name I remember with love.

  19. This man was tough as nails ! They used to play in some of the coldest temps ever too.

  20. I am one Packers fans who salutes Joe Kapp. Those Vikings games played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington in the dead of winter are classic. They don’t make Vikings like Joe Kapp anymore.

  21. Chiefs Kingdom of the late 1960s – sends its regards, RIP Mr Kapp

  22. Joe Kapp helped me fall in love with the game of football…RIP Injun Joe….

  23. ONLY Vikings QB not named Tarkenton to take them to the Super Bowl.
    RIP oe.

  24. “My 1st season in Minnesota…
    We’re getting beat pretty good by the Rams, I come into the game. I gotta do something different… so I walk up to the line, look over at Deacon and say, F— you!”
    That was Joe Kapp!

  25. NFL MVP, major role in an iconic sports movie, head coach of the college team that pulled off the craziest play in the history of the sport – that is a pretty good run Mr Kapp. I would love to see the NFL network air a replay of the first round playoff game against the Rams from the 1969 a tribute to Joe. RIP Joe.

  26. Whenever I hear the word leader, Joe Kapp is one of the first people o think of. Man his teammates and coaches loved him.

  27. RIP Joe . He coined the phrase “40 for 60” – 40 teammates giving their all for 60 minutes.
    At that time the game day roster had only 40 active players, but a big “taxi”(practice)squad .

  28. I met Joe Kapp at a Raiders game about 1998 at the coliseum in one of the bars in there. Talked for about five minutes. Football wasn’t mentioned. He told stories about him and shenanigans with Burt Reynolds during their decades long close friendship. My God the stories he told. Rest in peace Joe, you’re reunited with Burt. All I can say is God better keep an eye on them two together!

  29. RIP Injun Joe I remember you whopping my Detroit Lions and the Super Bowl vs the Chiefs even though on the losing side you were a tough SOB with the single bar helmet. God Bless “The Walking Boss”

  30. The Vikings traded 2 first round picks for Gary Cuozzo, and lo and behold, Kapp beat him out.
    When Kapp wanted more money after the 1970 Super Bowi, he was traded and the Vikings wasted 2 chances at the Super Bowl with Cuozzo.
    What might have been still hasn’t happened.

  31. He threw what was described as a “wounded mallard” pass. Did Bud Grant coin that expression?

  32. I loved Kapp as a youngster. He was tranded to my Pats for a first round draft choice and only played only 1 year and retired (cannot say I blame him). Jets better hope for better with Aaron.

  33. Thank you Mr. Florio for this well written tribute to the life of Joe Kapp. I had not known about his post Viking life and that he was the Cal coach when “the play” happened.

  34. Joe Kapp refused to accept the team’s MVP award in 1969. “There are 40 MVP’s I can’t accept this.” 40 for 60. Kapp threw those 7 TD’s in a game against a very good Baltimore Colts team.

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