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Joe Kapp: The old quarterback

Years after his playing and coaching career ended, the great Joe Kapp is keeping busy

Posted: December 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: December 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hart High graduate Joe Kapp is one of the most legendary sports figures in the Santa Clarita Valley's history.

 

It seems like every year the Santa Clarita Valley turns out another handful of talented athletes who move onto the greener pastures of college and professional sports.

Anymore, it's almost expected.

This valley is spoiled with the ability to watch Hart graduate James Shields pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays, Valencia's Shane Vereen play running back for the University of California and Canyon High product Alysia Johnson win track and field championships with team USA.

But long before they were around, in fact long before a shopping mall and Magic Mountain were around, there was one name in particular that made this valley proud.

Joe Kapp, a 1954 graduate of Hart High, stands as the only player to ever start in a Rose Bowl, a Grey Cup and a Super Bowl.

"He's the first person that I think most people heard of coming out of this valley," says Tony Moskal, current Golden Valley golf head coach and one-half of the valley's premier football broadcast team.

Every once in awhile, Kapp will pay a visit to the place he once called home, even if it's just to have a cup of coffee with his former basketball teammate at Hart, Bruce Fortine.

"Everywhere we'd go, I'd take him to meet people and he was the kind of guy you just wanted to hang out with," says Fortine, who lives in Santa Clarita and works from home, where he helps manage various environmental businesses.

Kapp's next visit to the area is scheduled for Jan. 20, when he'll speak at the College of the Canyons Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony.

During the speech, Kapp says he plans to touch on some of the central messages behind his newest project, the "What Do You Want to Be" foundation.

"People in America love sports," Kapp says. "Almost every sports team that you see out there says ‘we care for kids' or these kinds of things, so it's part of our national psychology."

The foundation was founded four years ago with the purpose of providing impoverished kids in the Southwestern U.S. with the direction and resources needed to pursue higher education and successful careers.

It was the culmination of several different charities Kapp has been involved in through the past 30 years since retirement from professional football, including golf tournaments and speaking events.

"Old quarterbacks don't die," Kapp, 72, says. "They keep making speeches. They keep talking in the huddle."
But just like everything else in life, Kapp gives his speeches and runs his foundation with a tinge of humor and a theme of sports.

"He's an entertaining guy to say the least," Fortine says. "He's got a dynamic, flashy, magnetic personality."

After his playing days ended, Kapp became Cal's head coach from 1982-86, where he coached what has become known as "The Play" in sports circles.

Cal used five laterals on a kickoff return to score a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the 1982 season-finale against arch-rival Stanford.

As Cal crossed the goal line, Stanford's marching band was prematurely preparing for a victory ceremony as play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey famously cried out, "The band is out on the field."

To this day, Kapp uses the play as an analogy for teamwork and a reason to never give up on life.

His connection to Cal football remains strong with his 21-year-old son Will currently a senior fullback for the football team.

His eldest son J.J., 46, is a public defender in Santa Clara County.

Kapp also has two daughters living in Southern California.
Emiliana, 23, graduated from San Diego State and Gabriela, 19, is attending the University of Southern California.

Sometimes, Kapp simply drives straight through Santa Clarita on his way to visit his daughters in Los Angeles.
It's a town that he left long ago, but his effect will not soon be forgotten.

"I think the fact that he was able to go so far, he inspired people," says longtime Hart swimming coach Steve Neale, who participated in The Signal's Coaches' Poll and selected Kapp as the most inspirational sports figure in this valley's history. "He inspired me with the possibility of, ‘Hey, you can compete in places with bigger populations and bigger teams.'"

To think, his career began in a small oil and farming town called Newhall, which had just under 4,000 people back then, according to the United States Census Bureau.

"All the towns that we played in, all the places I've seen," Kapp says. "It's been an interesting trip for somebody like me."

 

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