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Joe Kapp, NFL Quarterback
John O'Keefe
April 08, 2002
JULY 20, 1970
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April 08, 2002

Joe Kapp, Nfl Quarterback

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JULY 20, 1970

Everyone should have I a teammate like Joe Kapp. As I a reserve guard for the Cal basketball teams in the late 1950s, the 6'2", 215-pound Kapp ground down opposing teams' star backcourtmen and bucked up benchmates he thought weren't cheering enough. On the football field, where he was a star—as a senior, in 1958, he quarterbacked the Golden Bears to the Pacific Coast Conference title—Kapp maintained his one-for-all spirit. When Cal's trip to the '59 Rose Bowl (a 38-12 loss to Iowa) kept Kapp from basketball that year, he served as the team's social chairman. As a pro he led the Minnesota Vikings to the '70 NFL title (they lost 23-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV) but refused the team MVP award, saying, "There's no one most valuable Viking."

Since hanging up his helmet in 1970, Kapp, 63, has turned his talent for teamwork into a business. The Joe Kapp Company advises clients—from corporations such as Lockheed Martin and AT&T to high school faculty groups—on matters of organization and cooperation. "Each person has something special to bring to an organization," says Kapp. "I learned that on the athletic field, and it's absolutely true in life."

Drafted in the 18th round, by the Washington Redskins, Kapp opted for the CFL, in which he played three seasons for the Calgary Stampeders and five for the British Columbia Lions, leading the latter to a Grey Cup win in 1964, before the Vikings signed him in '67. Kapp spent three years with Minnesota before free agency landed him with the New England Patriots in '70. After a disappointing season, New England demanded that he take a pay cut. Kapp refused and sued the NFL, calling the standard player contract unconstitutional. The resulting legal battle—which effectively ended his playing career—lasted five years, during which time Kapp turned his attention to his consulting company. Then in '82 Cal athletic director Dave Maggard hired him to take over the reins of the wayward Bears football program. Under Kapp, who'd never coached, Cal went 7-4, including a 25-20 win over Stanford that was capped by The Play, an unforgettable five-lateral kickoff runback through the Cardinal band.

His five-season record at Cal of 20-34-1 may have been less than inspiring, but the teamwork—however improbable—exhibited in The Play is a cornerstone of Kapp's presentations to executives. "People ask whether The Play was just luck," says Kapp, who has four children and lives in Los Gatos, Calif., with his second wife, Jennifer. "Absolutely, but it takes a lot of work to achieve that type of togetherness."

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