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Legendary B.C. Lions QB Joe Kapp Passes Away From Dementia at 85

Joe Kapp, the renowned quarterback who achieved remarkable success in both the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Football League (NFL), has passed away at the age of 85. Kapp’s son, J.J. Kapp, confirmed that his father died after a 15-year battle with dementia.

Born on March 19, 1938, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Kapp later moved to California, where he excelled in both basketball and football at Hart High School. He accepted a basketball scholarship to attend the University of California-Berkeley, later becoming an All-American quarterback for the Cal Bears.

After college, Kapp began his professional football career in the CFL, spending eight seasons with the Calgary Stampeders and the B.C. Lions. During his time in the league, he established himself as one of the CFL’s best quarterbacks, earning all-star honors twice and being named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 1963. Kapp led the Lions to their first Grey Cup victory in 1964, and in total, threw for 22,725 yards, 136 touchdowns, and 129 interceptions in his CFL career, while rushing for 2,784 yards and 26 majors.

In 1967, Kapp returned to the United States, signing with the Minnesota Vikings. Despite throwing notoriously wobbly passes, he led the Vikings to a 12-2 record in 1969 and a Super Bowl berth. Kapp remains the only quarterback to have taken his team to a Rose Bowl, Grey Cup, and Super Bowl.

After a contractual dispute with the Boston Patriots, Kapp’s NFL career came to an end. He later won an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Following his playing career, Kapp worked as an actor, appearing in TV shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man” and movies like “The Longest Yard.” In 1982, he returned to his alma mater, coaching the California Golden Bears for six seasons with a 20-34-1 record. He then rejoined the B.C. Lions as their president and general manager in 1990, where he organized the signing of Hall of Fame quarterback Doug Flutie.

Kapp was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. His number 22 jersey was retired by the B.C. Lions, and he was named one of the 50 greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time in 2010.

Despite his many accomplishments, Kapp struggled with memory loss in his later years, fearing that he suffered from the degenerative brain disease CTE. His brain will be sent to the University of California San Francisco for study.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) has released the following statement

Joe Kapp was tough as nails.

​While most quarterbacks tried to evade defenders, he would run over them. He started his CFL career in Calgary, but will forever be remembered as a BC Lion after leading the Leos to their first Grey Cup in 1964.

​He led the CFL in passing on three occasions and was named a CFL All-Star twice, en route to being Inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984. ​

​Kapp in his playing days epitomized a brash, young league making its mark in the sports world. The Lions organization retired his number 22 for his contributions on and off the field.

​Upon news of his passing, our thoughts are with his friends and family.

Randy Ambrosie
​Canadian Football League

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Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry is the founder and editor of CFL News Hub. A dedicated and experienced football analyst, he has been providing comprehensive coverage of the sport since 2018.
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