Skip to main content
Original Issue

Joe Kapp, NFL Quarterback July 20, 1970

Everyone should have a teammate like Joe Kapp. As 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

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." --John O'Keefe



A Super Bowl starter, Kapp knew the value of teamwork--and made
it his life's business.