Joe Kapp is the only man in football history to quarterback a Rose Bowl, Grey Cup and Super Bowl Team. Kapp’s All American college career at the University of California earned him induction in the college football Hall of Fame. During his 12-year pro career he was known as “The Toughest Chicano” for his rugged style of play and pride in his Mexican American ancestry. After being locked out of pro football as the result of his groundbreaking lawsuit for restraint of trade against the NFL, Kapp began his colorful acting career. He made over 50 television and motion picture appearances between 1971 and 1981, including 7 feature films.
Kapp attacked his role in THE LONGEST YARD (1974) like he took on defenses in the NFL…with unmatched intensity and enthusiasm. His influence on the film goes well beyond his own acting performance. Although he did not receive screen credit, Kapp was instrumental in creating the realism and humor evident in the football sequences. Director Robert Aldrich relied on Kapp’s ideas on everything from football terminology to the scene where Burt Reynolds fires a spiral into Ray Nitschke’s groin. Kapp and Aldrich poured over the dailies to sculpt authentic and humorous football scenes. The two developed a tight bond and Kapp went on to do two more films directed by Mr. Aldrich: The Frisco Kid (1979) and The Choirboys (1977). Of all his TV and film work, he considers THE LONGEST YARD his best and favorite because of the lasting greatness of the film, Aldrich trust and generosity…and for the teamwork of the film’s crew and unique characters like Burt Reynolds, Ed Lauter, Ray Nitschke, Mike Henry, Pervis Atkins and Sonny Sixkiller…just to name a few.
Kapp’s time on location in Georgia for filming THE LONGEST YARD was not without controversy. He and former Canadian Football League great, Dick Fouts, were ambushed one night after shooting in a Savannah hotel bar by off duty cops wanting to pick a fight. When the on-duty cops arrived Kapp was given a thumping and charged with battery on a police officer and then hauled off to jail. After understanding producer Al Ruddy arranged bail and Joe returned to the prison for filming, he received a rousing ovation from the prisoners on the yard. In the subsequent jury trial Joe was acquitted of all charges; after the verdict was read the judge drawled: “Mr. Kapp can I have your autograph?”
In 1982, Kapp returned to football and his alma mater when he was named the Golden Bears head coach. Kapp’s coaching career was highlighted by Coach of the Year honors, as well as what many say is the greatest finish to a football game of all time: the five lateral kick-off return with 4 seconds on the clock resulting in a 25 -20 upset victory over John Elway’s Stanford Cardinal team known as “The Play.”