Joe Kapp, the first Latino quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) to lead a team to the Super Bowl, died on Monday (May 8). He was 85. According to a statement from the University of California, Berkeley, Kapp died after a long battle with dementia.
In the July 1970 issue of Sports Illustrated, the magazine called Kapp “the toughest Chicano” on its cover.
Earlier that year, Kapp, who was Mexican-American, took the Minnesota Vikings to Super Bowl IV. The Vikings lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-7, in what would be the final Super Bowl before the NFL and American Football League (AFL) merged.
Joseph Robert Kapp was born on March 19, 1938, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to a Mexican-American mother and white father. Kapp played quarterback for Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he led the football team to a conference championship and to the 1959 Rose Bowl.
Kapp got his start as a professional quarterback in the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1959 and led his second team in the league, the BC Lions, to a Grey Cup victory in 1964. Three years later, Kapp made his first start in the NFL for the Vikings. He led the Vikings to their first-ever playoff appearance in 1968.
“Men like Joe Kapp are the cornerstones the Minnesota Vikings franchise was built upon,” Mark Wilf, current Vikings owner and president, 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.”