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Former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp dies at age 85

In his three years with the Vikings Kapp went 23-12-3 and threw for 4,807 yards with 37 touchdowns. He led Minnesota to its first Super Bowl appearance.

EAGAN, Minn. — Former quarterback Joe Kapp, who led the Minnesota Vikings to their first of four Super Bowl appearances, died Monday at the age of 85.

Kapp spent three seasons with the Vikings, including in 1969 when he led Minnesota to a 12-1 record and an appearance in Super Bowl IV.

"He was, in a sense, the offensive counterpart to Jim Marshall," said Vikings legend Alan Page. "Tough. Focused. Willing to lay it all on the line all the time. He wasn't so much concerned about his achievements as opposed to those of the team."

Kapp joined the Vikings in 1976 after spending time in the CFL. In his three years with the Vikings, Kapp went 23-12-3 and threw for 4,807 yards and 37 touchdowns. 

He ushered the Vikings to a playoff appearance in 1968 before leading Minnesota to the Super Bowl in 1969. In that Super Bowl season, Kapp matched an NFL record by throwing for seven touchdowns in a single game. It set the tone for an incredible run that ultimately ended in a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chief in the Super Bowl.

"I just loved playing for him, and with him providing that leadership," said former Vikings receiver Gene Washington. "(He was) a leader, (brought) enthusiasm, and, again, was just a great friend."

That 1969 season helped transform the Vikings into a perennial powerhouse in the 1970s, where they went on to appear in three more Super Bowls (Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX, and Super Bowl XI). 

Kapp played college football at the University of California, where he led the Golden Bears to the Rose Bowl in 1959. The team has not been to the Rose Bowl since. He returned to his alma mater to become head coach of the Golden Bears for five seasons in the 1980s, with one of his teams responsible for "The Play," Cal’s lateral-infused romp through the Stanford band. His son J.J. Kapp wrote in an email to the San Francisco Chronicle that his father struggled with Alzheimer's in his later years and died “after a 15-year battle with dementia.”

His family suspects the disease resulted in part from his punishing style of football. Kapp played in a manner to reflect his brash personality, seeking out contact with defensive players as a running QB rather than trying to avoid hits. 

In fact, Kapp was so feisty that in 2011 he got in a fistfight with fellow Canadian football legend and wrestler Angelo "King Kong" Mosca during a CFL alumni gathering. The fight was over a dust-up that occurred during the 1963 Grey Cup Championship game, a disagreement that festered over nearly 50 years. 

But Kapp also had a sweet side, doting on his kids and grandkids with an ever-present twinkle in his eye, the Chronicle shared.  

“In Joe’s world everyone was family, and every day was a fiesta. … To the very end, he was entertaining his caregivers with rousing daily versions of  'You Are My Sunshine.' ”

On Tuesday evening, the Vikings shared even more kind words with KARE 11 from friends on Kapp's passing:

Mark Wilf, President of the Minnesota Vikings

"Men like Joe Kapp are the cornerstones the Minnesota Vikings franchise was built upon. 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."

Paul Krause, Minnesota Vikings safety (1968-1979)

"Everybody loved Joe Kapp. He was a great leader, a great friend and he really held our team together. He was a guy who liked to have fun and win football games and that’s what counted. I respected him for his love of the game and love for his teammates. We lost a good friend."

Dave Osborn, Minnesota Vikings running back (1965-1975)

"Joe is one of my favorite teammates of all time and a great friend. All Joe wanted to do was win. It didn’t matter to him if he gained one yard or completed one pass, all he cared about was winning and what was best for the team. I’ll miss him."

Clinton Jones, Minnesota Vikings running back (1967-1972)

"Joe brought people together and that’s a testament to his character. He led by example and would sacrifice for others. He was just an excellent teammate, he always put his team before himself. We had so many golden memories from those days and he stayed upbeat and had that fire until the end."

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