Quarterbacked Cal from 1956-58, leading the Bears to their last Rose Bowl appearance.

IRVING, Texas (May 9, 2023) – Joe Kapp, a 2004 College Football Hall of Fame inductee who played quarterback at Cal from 1956-58, passed away May 8. He was 85.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Kapp,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “One of the greatest players in Cal history, he established himself as a legend on the West Coast, gaining national fame and leading the Bears to a conference championship and the Rose Bowl in 1958. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time of loss.”

A First Team All-America selection, Kapp finished fifth in the 1958 Heisman Trophy voting, and he led Cal to a Pacific Coast Conference title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl, which remains the Bears’ last berth in the classic. Named First Team All-Conference, Cal’s MVP and team captain in 1958, he led the team in total offense all three years of his career, including rushing for 616 yards and passing for 775 in 1958.

During his three years under center, he rushed for 1,164 yards and passed for another 2,022. The Cal record books still include his memorable runs of 92 yards in 1958 vs. Oregon and 80 yards in 1957 vs. Washington. He won the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy in 1958 as the most outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. A member of the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, he also played on the basketball team as part of squads that claimed two Pacific Coast Conference titles.

Following graduation, Kapp played in the Canadian Football League for seven years with the Calgary Stampeders (1959-60) and the BC Lions (1961-66), including a Grey Cup victory in 1964. He then played four years in the NFL with Minnesota (1967-69), including leading the Vikings to an appearance in Super Bowl IV, and concluding his career with the Boston Patriots during the 1970 season. Kapp is the only quarterback to lead teams to a Rose Bowl, Grey Cup and Super Bowl.

After his playing career, Kapp pursued an acting career, appearing in character roles in television and film. His many credits include Ironside and The Six Million Dollar Man in television and The Longest Yard and Semi-Tough in film.

From 1982-86, Kapp returned to Cal as the head coach, including being named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1982. His Cal coaching tenure included the famous “Big Game” against Stanford when the Cardinal band prematurely rushed the field, allowing the Bears to score for the 25-20 victory. He served as the general manager for the BC Lions in 1990, and he was a head coach in the Arena Football League for the Sacramento Attack in 1992.

As great as Kapp was as a player, his greatest contributions may lie within the community. Coming from a mother of Hispanic heritage, Kapp partnered with the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the sole purpose of helping Hispanic students attend and graduate from college. In 1993, the City of Hope selected Kapp as its Sportsman of the Year and presented him with their prestigious “Spirit of Life” award for his tireless support of education. He remained active in numerous other philanthropic causes throughout his lifetime.

Born March 18, 1938, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Kapp was raised in California, and he attended William S. Hart High School in Newhall, playing football and basketball, before heading to Cal. In addition to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, he is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and the CB Lions Wall of Fame.

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