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Former Vikings QB Joe Kapp dead at 85 after battle with dementia

Kapp led the Vikings to the 1969 NFL championship

Joe Kapp, the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback and University of California head coach, died Monday at the age of 85. His son, J.J. Kapp, told the San Franciso Chronicle in an email that his father had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died “after a 15-year battle with dementia.”

Kapp played eight years in the Canadian Football League after his playing days at Cal despite being drafted in the 18th round by Washington in 1959. Kapp led the BC Lions to their first Grey Cup in 1964 before he signed with the Vikings in 1967 in a wild trade-like transaction: The Lions waived Kapp so he could join the Vikings and Minnesota waived running back Jim Young so the Toronto Argonauts could trade Young's CFL rights to BC.

Kapp only played three years for the Vikings but led Minnesota to its first and only NFL championship in 1969 — before the 1970 merger with the AFL. The Vikings lost to the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.

During his time with the Vikings, Kapp threw for 4,807 yards, 37 touchdowns and 47 interceptions in 40 games. He is the only quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl and Grey Cup.

"Men like Joe Kapp are the cornerstones the Minnesota Vikings franchise was built upon," Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said in a statement. "Joe's toughness and competitive spirit defined the Vikings teams of his era, and his tenacity and leadership were respected by teammates and opponents alike. We mourn Joe's loss with his family, friends and Vikings fans around the world."

Kapp coined the phrase "40 for 60" — meaning 40 men playing for each other for 60 minutes — which the Vikings adopted as one of their most important franchise mantras.

"Joe Kapp was a true inspirational leader," former Vikings receiver and teammate John Henderson said, via the team website. "... We didn't perhaps have the greatest talent on our team, but we had an attitude, and Joe had a lot to do with that. He was scrappy, he would give his body up, and if he could do it, we felt like we could do the same thing, so we played for each other."

Kapp finished his NFL career with the Boston Patriots in 1970.

Joe Kapp led the Vikings to their first and only NFL title. (Photo by Nate Fine/NFL)
Joe Kapp led the Vikings to their first and only NFL title. (Photo by Nate Fine/NFL)

Kapp's post-playing career

After his NFL career ended, Kapp became an actor and played minor roles in television shows and movies, including "The Longest Yard" in 1974 and in two episodes of "The Six Million Dollar Man."

Kapp became the head coach of his alma mater at Cal in 1982 despite zero coaching experience. Kapp's first season as head coach ended with "The Play" — where Cal beat Stanford on a wild kickoff return for a touchdown to win the game when the Cardinal band ran onto the field. He coached the Golden Bears for five seasons and amassed a 20-34-1 record.

Kapp later became the general manager of the CFL's Lions for two years from 1990-1992. He coached the Arena Football League's Sacramento Attack for one season in 1992.