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Former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp dies at 85


Jan. 11, 1970; New Orleans, LA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp (11) scrambles against the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium. The Chiefs won the game, 23-9. Mandatory Credit: Rod Hanna-USA TODAY Sports


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.