When fans of the Canadian Football League discuss who were the greatest quarterbacks in the leagues' history, names such as Jackie Parker, Sam Etchevarry, Russ Jackson, Ron Lancaster, and Doug Flutie are among the elite players considered. However when fans debate who was the toughest man to ever play quarterback in the CFL there is one man who stands out above all. That man is Hall of Fame member, Joe Kapp.
Joe Kapp was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1938. His family moved to California where he grew up and started his schooling in Salinas and graduated from William S. Hart High School in Newhall, California. He chose to attend the University of California, Berkeley, to play football under Pappy Waldorf and basketball under Pete Newell. In his senior year, Joe was the captain and quarterback of the 1958 Rose Bowl Team. He was the PCC rushing leader, running an early version of the split T wishbone offense. The Golden Bears were defeated in the Rose Bowl by a powerful University of Iowa team, 38-12. To this date they have never returned to the big show in Pasadena. Joe finished fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy and made the All-American Team. Joe was also a member of the Pete Newell '57,'58 PCC basketball champions and the Rose Bowl kept him off of the 1959 NCAA National champion team.
In spite of the winning record and individual honors, the Washington Redskins drafted Joe in the 18th round of the 1959 draft and owned his rights to play professional football in the USA. Washington did not contact Joe, so his only choice was to join the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Jim Finks the Calgary GM had heavily recruited Joe and offered him the opportunity to play quarterback.
Finks had scouted and seen Joe play and knew that with his running ability he was a natural for the Canadian game. Joe reminisces, "The Redskins were never in touch with me. No phone calls, no letters, nothing. The talk in the NFL was that I had committed to Canada before the Rose Bowl game and that was definitely not the case, but I appreciated the chance to compete in the CFL."
Joe's first challenge in Calgary was to win the number one quarterbacking spot from Jack Kemp. Kemp was an excellent quarterback who would go on to lead the Buffalo Bills to the AFL championship in 1964 and 1965, as well as the championship game of 1966. However, he was no match for Joe Kapp in Calgary. The Stampeders loved Joe's fierce, "never say die" attitude and rallied to him. By the end of the exhibition season Joe was the number one quarterback in Calgary.
The 1959 season was a success for Joe personally. He led the Stampeders to a record of 8-8; an improvement from their 6-9-1 record of 1958. Joe passed for 21 touchdowns and rushed for 606 yards, scoring 5 touchdowns on the ground. In 1960, Kapp turned in another solid season and led the Stampeders to their first playoff appearance in years. The season was not all fun for Joe, however. "I injured my knee against Toronto early in the season and had to play with it heavily taped the rest of the year but did not miss a game. The injury hurt my mobility but improved my passing game by forcing me to stay in the pocket."
Joe's knee was operated on following the season. While recuperating, Coach Steve Owen visited Joe and told him he had just been fired. Joe had now played 2 years of professional football under 2 coaches he respected and was very hurt and disillusioned with the CFL and was ready to return to the US.
Jim Finks had fired two coaches, Otis Douglas and Steve Owen, in two years and was bringing in Bobby Dobbs as the new coach. One game into the 1961 season, Calgary traded Joe to the British Columbia Lions for four starting players. " I was concerned about the management of the team in that both Otis Douglas and Stout Steve Owen were great coaches. I didn't agree with those decisions, but of course I was just a player and we were five hundred dollars apart on contract amount, so Finks found a way to unload me to BC. Finks never believed I would recover from the surgery and so he sold a 'lemon' to the Lions? I was personally very hurt by the trade, but the monopoly of pro football is a business."
The Lions had finished behind Calgary the year before and Joe knew he was not going to find it easy in Vancouver. The Lions were a dreadful team in 1961 and Joe and his teammates started the process of building a winning spirit. They finished with a horrendous record of 1-13 and Joe took a beating. The Lions offense seemed to be based around Joe dropping back to pass and then running for his life. His bad knee hurt his mobility and his personal statistics from that year were disappointing but he had started to bring leadership and teamwork to the Lions.
Things began to turn around for the Lions and Joe Kapp in 1962. Roy Cavallin, the Lions' trainer, developed a rehabilitation program for Joe and he worked day and night on rebuilding his bad knee. It paid off big time! BC improved to a record of 7-9, barely missing the third and final playoff spot, and Joe had a tremendous year throwing 28 touchdown strikes and passing for 3279 yards. He also added 183 yards along the ground on 51 carries.
By now Joe Kapp had developed the reputation of being a fearless leader. While most quarterbacks dislike being hit and take every possible opportunity to run out of bounds or slide to avoid a hit, Joe was the opposite. He loved to hit and when he took off on a run he'd try to run over any defender foolish enough to try and bring him down. Former CFL superstar defensive back with Winnipeg and Toronto, Dick Thornton, faced Joe many times during his playing career. Looking back, Dick shared some of his memories of playing against Joe. "The thing I remember about Joe Kapp was big, strong, and he'd rather run over and through you than try and deke you. He was also tough as nails. (I) Remember one time, I came on a cornerback blitz from the left side and he was looking the other way. He never saw me coming and probably never expected me to blitz because we didn't do that in those days. I just had one of those hunches and told Nick Miller, our safety, to 'cover me' just in case. Anyway, I blindside him with everything I've got and we both crash(ed) to the turf. Big, big hit and the crowd reacts with the Ooooooh. Two things immediately went through my mind, he ain't going to get up and for sure he coughed up the ball. Well, Kapp jumps right back up, flips the ball to the referee and with that s...eating grin of his, looked at me and simply said...'Tricky, where the hell did you come from?' I'll never forget that. Yes, he was an excellent quarterback. He knew how to win."
The author asked Joe how he got this reputation of being such a tough, fearless, leader. Joe described it this way. "If I had been on teams that were on a roll it may have been different. The BC Lions were the new team in the league. In 1961 we were starting from the beginning in building a winning team. My job as the QB was to provide the pass and be a leader. We had the nucleus of good players and an all-time great player in Willie Fleming. We proved we could win in the next 2 seasons. Football is a tough, demanding game and players that don't play tough don't last too long."
The BC Lions and Joe Kapp came of age in 1963. Head Coach Dave Skrein's Lions became a "powerhouse" that year. The Lions rolled to a record of 12-4, good for first place in the Western Conference. Their defence was led by such stalwarts as linebackers Tom Brown, Norm Fieldgate, and linemen Dick Fouts, and Mike Cacic. They gave up only 232 points all season. Kapp passed for 20 touchdowns while giving up 15 interceptions. He added 438 yards along the ground and scored 5 touchdowns while doing so. The running of Willie Fleming, who churned out over 1000 yards rushing, bolstered the Lions attack. Overall they scored an incredible 387 points.
The Lions clashed with Ron Lancaster and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western final that year. In that era the Western final was a best 2 of 3 affair. Joe led a very conservative BC attack in the first game as the Lions knocked off the "Green Riders" 19-7. In the second game Lancaster rallied Saskatchewan to a 13-8 victory. However, in the final game the Lions "roared." Kapp played magnificently, Fleming ran all over the field, and the BC defence shut down the Rider attack as the Lions humiliated Saskatchewan 36-1.
During Grey Cup week it was announced that Kapp had been voted as the winner of the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the Western conference. That news bolstered the hopes of the Lions fans, but in the BC dressing room there was concern. The Lions had taken a physical beating in their battles with Saskatchewan and were hurting. Ron Morris and Pat Claridge, two key members of the offense, would miss the Grey Cup. Other BC players would be playing while badly beaten up and far from being in their top form. They would be going into the biggest game of the year undermanned. Could Joe Kapp still lead them to victory? That was the story on the lips of all CFL fans.
On Grey Cup Sunday Joe Kapp and the Lions ran onto the grass of Empire Stadium in Vancouver to play in the first Grey Cup in BC Lion history. Many thought the Lions would have an edge playing on their home field. Their opponents would be the always tough Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Ti-Cat defence was one of the finest in the history of the CFL, led by such future Hall of Famers as , Angelo Mosca, John Barrow, and two-way star, Garney Henley. They had a strong offence as well led by quarterback Bernie Faloney and wide receiver Hal Patterson who are both in the Hall of Fame. Hamilton had lost the last two Grey Cup games (both to Winnipeg) and desperately wanted this game.
Hamilton was clinging to a slim lead early in the 2nd quarter when the turning point of the game occurred. It was also one of the most famous plays in CFL history. Kapp sent Willie Fleming, the Lions thousand-yard rusher, wide on a sweep. Fleming was tripped up and went sprawling on the sidelines. Just as he landed he was pulverized by a crushing hit from Angelo Mosca. Now came the controversy. Was Fleming in bounds or was he out of bounds? If you were a BC Lions fan he was out of bounds. Hamilton supporters of course claimed Willie was in bounds. Was Mosca trying to intentionally injure Fleming? Again it depended on whom you spoke to. The Lions and their fans said it was a clear attempt to injure. Ti-Cat fans said Mosca was committed to the tackle before Fleming hit the ground. It was a play that to this day sparks debate among CFL fans. Looking back Kapp still gets angry at the play. "In my opinion a Hamilton player disgraced himself that day by hitting Fleming way out of bounds. I cussed him out in two languages! Fans pay money to watch players play by the rules, and we are supposed to set an example for them. Mosca showed no respect for the game of football , himself, or his opponents . It was a dirty play and everybody knows it, and it wasn't the only one. One time while our team was watching a Toronto-Hamilton game film we saw an Argonaut get so upset with Mosca, he hauled off and kicked him (Mosca) right in the nuts! Our players stood up and gave him a standing ovation. We were angry but so what? Anger doesn't help you win the game. Our receivers Ron Morris and Pat Claridge were already out so losing Willie really hurt our ability to win the game."
As Fleming lay on the field knocked out, the Lions and their fans went wild. Kapp was enraged and had to be physically restrained from attacking Mosca. Fleming staggered off the field with assistance, never to return that day. With Willie out of the game, the Lions offense was severely curtailed. The Ti-Cat defence focused all their attention on Joe and subjected him to a fearful beating. Time and time again Joe was hammered into the turf and yet he always jumped back up with a snarl, daring the Ti-Cats to try and hit him again. Try as he did though, that day Hamilton was too strong as the Lions were defeated 21-10.
By this point, Joe Kapp and Willie Fleming were the most popular and famous athletes in British Columbia. The Willie and Joe "show" had connected each year for pass completion's of over 100 yards. Willie had his clothing store on Granville Street and Joe was well known for his Squirrel Brand peanut butter endorsements. Joe would drive around the province in a peanut butter colored convertible handing out samples of Squirrel brand peanut butter. Peanut butter sales went through the roof in BC! Joe was always available to the fans and media and was well known as a thoughtful, gracious athlete.
The Lions were determined to "roar in 64" and avenge their bitter Grey Cup defeat of 1963. They finished on top of the West once again with a record of 11-2-3. Their defence that had been great the previous year, was even better in 1964. Led by middle linebacker Tom Brown (who would win the Schenley as top defensive player that year) they gave up only 168 points...an unbelievable accomplishment in the offence oriented CFL! Joe had what appeared to be an ordinary season. He passed for only 14 touchdowns and gave up 13 interceptions while throwing for less then 3000 yards. He did add 370 yards along the ground along with 6 touchdowns. His stats didn't look the best but the team won, and that is what he worried about.
Joe led the Lions past a stubborn Calgary squad in the Western final and the Lions then headed to Toronto for a Grey Cup showdown at CNE Stadium with their old nemesis Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats firmly expected to hang onto their Grey Cup crown in this game, but they received the shock of their lives. Early in the game Joe led the Lions right down the field. He expertly mixed runs by full-back Bob Swift and running back Willie Fleming with pin point accurate passes and finished the drive by sending Swift crashing into the Ti-Cat end zone for a major. Shortly afterwards on a following series of downs Lions fans were horrified at the sight of Bob Swift lying on the ground writhing in pain. Swift had suffered a broken leg and was gone for the day. Visions of 1963 and Willie Fleming being injured went through their minds. But Joe was not going to let this finish his team. He got another drive going and sent back-up full back Bill Munsey in for the score. The Lions kept coming at the bewildered Tiger Cats and by the 3rd quarter BC was comfortably ahead 34-8. Hamilton fought back to make it a respectable 34-24 score but Joe Kapp and his teammates had done it! They had brought Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia their first ever major league professional sports championship.
For Joe Kapp this may have been the pinnacle of his career. "I look back at the Grey Cups of 1963 and 1964 with great pride. I mean we were the first Lions team to get to a Grey Cup and then the first to win it. I played better in the 1963 game because I had to. The challenges and demands on the QB position are always greater in the tougher games and I have always thought I played better when the going was toughest, but that doesn't mean you win the game. In 1963 I thought I played well, but in 1964 the Lions were ready to roar. We had momentum. We had accomplished our goal to return and our team had the skill and pride to be Grey Cup Champions. I just made sure the QB position didn't make any mistakes .The BC Lions on that day were so strong, I could have played that game in a rocking chair."
Joe Kapp firmly believes that the Canadian League, in those years, was vastly underrated. There were 12 teams in the NFL with 170 million US population and 9 CFL teams with 17 million people in Canada. CFL players on every team had competed with Americans successfully and the new AFL was stocked with CFL players. Jackie Parker, Leo Lewis, John Barrow, Wayne Harris, Tony Pajaczkowski and a long list of great players could have led their teams vs AFL or NFL teams. "The Canadian League back then could have competed with the NFL or AFL. The players I played with and against in the CFL all could have played in the United States if they were given the chance. In fact, looking back the CFL teams could have been part of the expansion of pro football and participated in the economics of millions of North America television income. The players and teams in Canada at that time could have played in any league and were vastly underrated by Canadian and American fans."
Unfortunately for Joe Kapp and the BC Lions, what looked like the beginning of a dynasty fell quickly. The Lions suffered injuries, and team management made some ill-advised personnel moves, that contributed to the Lions decline. They missed the playoffs in both 1965, and 1966.
It was in 1966 that Joe made the decision to return home to the United States. He had won a Grey Cup, passed for over 22,000 yards in the CFL, and had proven to everyone in Canada that he was an elite quarterback. It was now time to do the same in the United States. The AFL's Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and Houston Oilers were heavily pursuing Joe. Joe signed a contract with the Oilers, contingent on playing out his option with BC in 1967. When the Lions heard Joe had signed with Houston they suspended him. Joe was told by BC management, "If anyone can protect their integrity by playing out their option, knowing they are going to a different team the following year, it is you." However, the Lions and the CFL in an effort to discourage other players from doing this suspended Joe. They complained to Pete Rozelle, the NFL's commissioner (who due to the merger of the NFL and AFL also had jurisdiction over the AFL) accusing the Oilers of "tampering." Rozelle after his investigation, announced the Oilers had indeed "tampered" by signing Joe to a contract while he was under contract with BC. Rozelle voided the contract between Joe and the Oilers and Joe Kapp was now in limbo. He was 29 years old, an 8-year veteran quarterback in the prime time of his career. Suspended by the Lions and with his Houston contract voided, where would he play?
The answer to that question would be answered in one of the most complex trades ever made. The Minnesota Vikings back 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 was now eager to return home to Canada. The BC Lions wanted Young badly, however the Toronto Argonauts had his CFL rights. The Vikings General Manager was Jim Finks, who had brought Joe to Canada back in 1959, and their head coach was now Bud Grant who had coached against Joe many times while in Winnipeg. Both Finks and Grant thought Joe Kapp would be an ideal replacement for Fran Tarkenton who had been traded to the New York Giants. But how could they get him? The deal was huge. The Lions traded all-star defensive lineman Dick Fouts, and future Hall of Fame running back Bill Symons to the Argonauts for the CFL rights to Jim Young. They then "pulled every trick in the book" getting Kapp waived out of the CFL. The Vikings meanwhile, "pulled in all their markers" around the NFL getting Young waived out of that league. (The expansion New Orleans Saints wanted Young and it took some master manipulation from Finks to keep them from claiming Young.) Kapp, waived through the CFL, was free to sign with Minnesota who had claimed his NFL playing rights from Washington. Young waived through the NFL signed with the Lions and began a career in 1967 that would take him to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
So once again Joe joins a losing franchise signing a 2- year contract with a one year option for the 1967, 1968, and 1969 seasons. For the second time Joe was not given a choice of where he could play and once again Jim Finks was in control. The Vikings of 1967 were a team with a new coach and a new QB. The changes for Joe were the game itself - four downs, smaller field, no motion, 11 players, new system, new personnel, and new opponents. He was a rookie in a new league, but a rookie with 8 tough years in Canada. It was a struggle in his return to the US brand of football but according to Joe it wasn't so much adjusting to the American game as it was adjusting to Bud Grant. " The NFL was a big change for me and for Bud Grant as we both had to go once around the league to get up to speed. It slowed up my learning process about the NFL but I came to appreciate why he was such a great coach. In our building years, in BC or Calgary as the QB, I accepted or took on the responsibility for winning. I learned to play Bud's conservative careful style. It wasn't in our system to play wide-open football so I wasn't able to do things on offence that made me effective. Bud's plan for winning was to play it close and put the pressure on our great defensive unit. 'The Purple People Eaters' were fun to play with as we built a winning team!"
The opposing defenders Joe was now facing were amazed at him. They could not believe a quarterback could play pro football with his style. His reputation was for throwing wobbly passes on the run. His passes may not have looked great but they usually found their receivers. And then there was Joe's running ability. Nobody in the NFL had ever seen a quarterback run like Joe Kapp. When he tucked the ball under his arm and took off, he looked like a fullback, and was as hard to tackle.
In 1968 Joe led the Vikings to their very first winning record and into the playoffs for the first time ever, winning the NFL "black and blue division". Minnesota beat Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus's Chicago Bears, and the Detroit Lions team of Alex Karras and Lem Barney. In their first ever playoff appearance they lost 24-14 to the powerful Baltimore Colts but they gave the Colts, who finished the regular season at 13-1, a scare. The Vikings, under Coach Bud Grant and QB Joe Kapp, had moved from a record of 3-8-3 in 1967, 8-6 in 1968, to a 1969 season record of 12-2...and an NFL championship.
When fans of Canadian football think of Joe Kapp they usually remember the 1963, and 1964 seasons. When American fans think of Joe Kapp they think of 1969. That year the Vikings and Joe Kapp tore the NFL apart. Minnesota, lead by the powerful "Purple People Eaters" defence, and Joe's brilliant play finished the year with a record of 12-2. In September of that year Joe fired 7 touchdown passes against the Baltimore Colts...an accomplishment that has not been matched since. He finished the year with 19 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He also ran for 104 yards along the ground. Joe coined the term "Forty for Sixty ", which meant 40 players (the size of a NFL roster) playing all-out for 60 minutes.
Joe was the ultimate team player. When he was voted the Vikings most valuable player for 1969 he refused to accept the award claiming, "There is no most valuable Viking. There are 40 most valuable Vikings."
The Vikings hosted the Los Angeles Rams in their first ever home playoff game. At half time they were trailing 17-7 but Joe was not about to let the Vikings' season end so soon. He quickly marched the offence down the field in the 3rd quarter ending the drive with a touchdown run by running back Dave Osborn. In the 4th quarter Joe led the Vikings back down the field and dove into the end zone giving the Vikings a lead they'd never give up winning the game 23 to 20.
The following week Minnesota hosted the Cleveland Browns for the NFL championship. The winner would go on to play the AFL champion in the Super Bowl. The game was played in frigid temperatures and Joe put the Vikings ahead early. Deep in Cleveland territory he tried to hand off to fullback Bill Brown. Brown and Kapp collided and Joe spun away from Brown, tucked the ball under his arm and blasted through the Cleveland defence and into the end zone. Shortly afterwards Joe was involved in a play that had football fans everywhere talking. Joe dropped back to pass and could not find an open receiver. He roared up the middle where Cleveland's tough, veteran linebacker Jim Houston was waiting. Houston moved in for the hit and Joe seemed to run right over him and knocked him out cold. The Cleveland defence seemed to sag at the sight of Houston lying on the field unmoving and fans were awestruck. Never before had they seen a quarterback knock a linebacker out of a game! Joe looks back at that play with a smile; "On that particular play I take no credit for anything but luck. I put all my moves on him - both of them - and he didn't go for them. Houston was going to kill me! His jaw ran into my knee and knocked him out cold. It just shows God loves QB's more than linebackers." Maybe it was luck but regardless, Cleveland was beaten. The final score was 27-7 for the Vikings and it was now off to the Super Bowl!
The Vikings opponents in Super Bowl IV would be the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs. At that time most football "experts" felt the NFL was a vastly superior league to the AFL, and assumed Minnesota would have little trouble with the Chiefs. The Vikings were 12-point favorites going into the game. "We had a great team but so did Kansas City. The year before in Super Bowl III the AFL Jets defeated the NFL Colts so who made us favorites? The media did. The Chiefs were an underrated team and people should have seen that owner Lamar Hunt had used his fortune and assembled a big, strong, and fast team. Our attitude was let's play the game and may the best team win!"
Kansas City Head Coach Hank Stram felt the key to beating the powerful Vikings lay in stopping their devastating up the middle running attack with Dave Osborn and Bill Brown, and keeping Joe Kapp in the pocket. If Joe was allowed to roll out and run he could kill you. Their plan worked to perfection. By half time the Chiefs were ahead 16-0 and the Vikings were confused. Punter Gerald Wilson had kept the Viking offence in the hole and kicker Jan Stennarud had put points on the board but this was a heavyweight match and the Vikings still had a half to go. The Chief defense had stopped the Viking running game and Joe was completing passes but not for a score and not rolling out. At half time Joe and the Vikings were stunned when Bud Grant simply told them to play better and made no adjustments to their game plan. Remembering that and the rest of the game Joe says; "We made no adjustment to their defensive alignment that put Buck Buchanan and Curly Culp right over our center Mick Tinglehoff. None of our NFL opponents had lined up that way and we didn't adjust. Bud just told us to play better at the half. I pulled the offence aside and gave them hell and they gave me hell. Our first drive of the second half we moved down the field on a 70- yard drive and Dave Osborn scored for us. I then figured we were back in the game. Right after that though, Otis Taylor caught a 6-yard hitch and ran 60 yards for his touchdown and we were down 23-7. I tried to bring us back and hit our TE John Beasley number 87 with a pass. The pass hit him on the 7 and not the 8, bounced off his shoulder pad and was intercepted by Willie Lanier. Someone said it is a game of inches? Shortly after that I became a 'taco sandwich', had my shoulder dislocated and had to leave the game due to injury for the first time in my pro life. We had lost our Purple Power on that day but we went down with swords in our hands."
Minnesota lost the Super Bowl 23-7 and nobody at the time realized Joe Kapp had played his final game as a Viking. The business of pro football prevailed. The Vikings had exercised the option clause prior to the season so Joe 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. Why did the Vikings not offer Joe Kapp a contract prior to the 1969 season? Jim Finks had allowed Joe Kapp to become a free agent for the 1970 season. Why?
"Once again, Jim Finks was in control of my football life. When I joined the Vikings I had hoped this would be my final football team. Just as in Canada my goal was to win the championship. We had worked hard to build a winning team. I did not want to be a free agent by the NFL's own rules. I did not and still do not know why I was not offered a contract unless it was to use me as an example. After the Super Bowl season and the momentum we would have for the next season I thought it was a replay of 1963 and 1964. We would win the Super Bowl in 1970 if given the chance. I did not get that chance. The contract negotiations between my attorney John Elliot Cook and Finks ended up with Finks saying, ' for the good of football Joe will not be a Viking'."
In spite of being a Super Bowl quarterback, no teams in the NFL made contact with Joe until September of the 1970 season. Once again a man without a team until the Boston Patriots signed Joe to a four-year contract. Pete Rozelle stepped in forcing the Patriots to give up two number one draft picks as compensation. The Boston Patriots of 1970 were a terrible team and Joe had a very disappointing season. When the year ended Pete Rozelle demanded that Joe sign what is called a Standard Player Contract. After conferring with John Elliott Cook and Ed Garvey and the Player Association lawyers Joe refused to sign a new contract. Joe reported to the 1971 Patriots training camp and was kicked out. The headlines in the Boston papers read "KAPP QUITS!" Joe never played again.
Joe started his only remaining option, 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 long 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 a jury decided Joe was not damaged. A jury member was quoted "Mr. Kapp should have signed the illegal contract like all the other players and then sue". Joe was not awarded damages but since then the rules at issue in the Kapp case have been revised and a new system has been instituted and a multi-million dollar settlement was made with the NFL players in 1977.
Joe Kapp's football career was over but he certainly did not vanish from the public view. He made the most of an opportunity to read for a film actor part in movie "Climb an Angry Mountain" starring Fess Parker and Stella Stevens which led to a friendship with Director Bob Aldrich. Joe played "the Walking Boss" in "The Longest Yard" starring Burt Reynolds. Joe coached and choreographed all the football scenes. Joe also worked in "The Frisco Kid", "The Choirboys", "Breakheart Pass", "Two Minute Warning" and many television productions.
In 1982 he was made an offer he could not refuse. He became the head football coach at his alma mater, the University of California. In his five years at the University of California Joe failed to get the Golden Bears back to the Rose Bowl. However he did install a spirit of teamwork and discipline among the players that made the Golden Bears a tough, and a very well respected opponent around the NCAA. Joe's coaching career is probably best known for Stanford University John Elway's last college football game. In that game The Golden Bears had played Elway tough with a blitz that had CAL in the lead 19 to 17 with a minute left in the game. John worked his magic and with less than 10 seconds to play, Stanford kicked what appeared the game winning field goal and led 20 to 19. With 4 seconds left on the clock, the Bears taking to heart Joe's philosophy of "40 for 60", proceeded to take the kick-off and 5 laterals later had taken it through the Stanford squad and marching band (who had come onto the field thinking the game was over!) for the winning touchdown. Sports Illustrated has called it "the play" and labeled it the greatest example of teamwork in the history of sports.
From California Joe spent a season as President and General Manager of the BC Lions where he is best known for signing Doug Flutie to his first CFL contract. Today Joe continues to live in California and can be reached at his website www.joekapp.com. You can usually catch him at lunchtime at table 2 at Kapp's Bar & Grill, 191 Castro Street in Mountain View California. He also manages his business development company, Joe Kapp, Inc., and he is an in-demand public speaker. Joe was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and is truly one of the CFL's "Legends."
Western All-Star 1963, 1964
All-Canadian All-Star 1963,1964
Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy
Number retired by the BC Lions
Pacific- 10 College Coach of the Year 1982
Seattle Times National Coach of the Year
University of California Athletic Hall of Fame
Canadian Football Hall of Fame
BC Lions Hall of Fame
Latin American International Sports Hall of Fame
Personal Interviews with Joe Kapp and Dick Thornton
Canadian Football League, 2002 Facts and Figures
Craig Wallace lives in Toronto and has written a soon to be published book on the 1967-72 Toronto Argonauts. He is also the author of the Legends biographies on Dick Thornton, Bill Symons, and Mel Profit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org