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A Uni Watch Look at Joe Kapp

This has been a hectic week, so I haven’t gotten around to noting that former NFL quarterback Joe Kapp died on Monday. He was 85.

Kapp led the Vikings to Super Bowl IV. They lost that game to KC, but Kapp almost certainly set the all-time Super Bowl record for the widest space between the numerals on his jersey — not just on the front (as seen above), but also on the back and the sleeves:

As you can see in that rear-view shot, Kapp was also the last NFL quarterback to go NNOB, as the league added NOBs the following season. (Update: Reader/commenter Jeremy Snyder points out that while Kapp was the last starting NFL quarterback to go NNOB, he was injured during Super Bowl IV and replaced on the game’s final drive by Gary Cuozzo. So Cuozzo was actually the NFL’s last NNOB QB, not Kapp.)

In the wake of Kapp’s death, Uni Watch reader David Murphy sent me this note:

After the Super Bowl, Kapp was featured in a Wheaties commercial. The ad showed Kapp struggling in a game, with song lyrics that went, “Hey, Joe – you didn’t eat your Wheaties. Hey, Joe – you’re going to lose the game.” Kapp kept getting sacked by Chiefs defenders. As I recall, Kapp’s team wore the Vikings’ purple helmets and jerseys and the defense wore KC’s red jerseys and helmets — color on color!

But what really got me was the lack of official helmet logos. Both teams wore helmets with small, plain white triangles, positioned to point like the Vikings’ horns and the Chiefs’ arrowheads. As a 10-year-old, I was amazed by these differences. Every time the commercial played, I would hop up to get a closer look. Unfortunately, I can find no trace of this commercial on the internet.

I couldn’t find that Wheaties commercial either, but I did find this commercial featuring Kapp and KC quarterback Len Dawson hawking Gillette razor blades while wearing endearingly generic windbreakers:

Kapp must have liked being in front of the camera, because he later became an actor, appearing in several TV series and movies. He was also coaching at Cal for the famous “The Play” game. R.I.P.


Comments (21)

    Thanks for linking to The Play because I needed to see that again today. My favorite part, of course, is the announcer going, “Oh, the band is out on the field!”

    Kapp was the last NFL starting quarterback to go NNOB, but Gary Cuozzo took over for an injured Kapp on the last drive.


    Kapp is the star of one of the greatest videos of all time – fighting Angelo Mosca at a CFL alumni dinner in 2011. There was still bad blood from a late hit in the 1963 Grey Cup.



    Salinas, California’s own Joe Kapp! RIP to “The Toughest Chicano”! He represented my hometown and Alma Mater with pride.

    My first favorite QB from my first favorite team. Rest in Peace, Mr. Kapp.

    Love the windbreakers in that commercial. I also remember watching Joe Kapp as a guest star on The Six Million Dollar Man.

    In what was still called the NFL Championship game before that Super Bowl, the Vikes hammered the Browns on a brutally cold day in Minnesota. As evidence of how tough Kapp was, he took off on a scramble and ran right at Cleveland linebacker Jim Houston and knocked him out of the game with a concussion. (Poor Houston also suffered frostbite in that game.) Kapp was a beast.

    He was also on the ‘Guards team’ in the original The Longest Yard.

    Joe Burrow’s nameplate fell off in the second half of a game in 2021. I would count that as NNOB.

    Good stuff. Not sure why Kapp always appealed to me. Such a tenacious player, especially for a QB. Wore number 22 in the CFL and as a player at Cal. Hard to believe he only played four seasons in the NFL.

    The opposite situation is happening now with the spacing on #11 with Thompson of the Warriors. Absurdly close together and I don’t like it.

    I remember Joe Kapp being described in a Sports Illustrated article back in his playing days as, “half of a collision in search of the other half.” I believe that summed up his style of play pretty well!

    Joe Kapp is possibly the worst QB to play in a Super Bowl but also the toughest and most fun to watch because played the position like a linebacker. I especially loved his roll out jump passes. I remember playing two hand touch as a kid in Brooklyn and anytime a wobbly pass was thrown someone would shout, “You throw like Joe Kapp.” RIP

    On a collegiate uni note, I read an article about Joe Kapp taking over at Cal. The article mentioned Kapp changing the helmet logo to a bear claw with the “Cal” script inside the claw, as well as changing the uniforms from a lighter royal blue (what he described in a now-politically incorrect term) to the current dark blue. Those were the days when a new coach looking to make a statement of a new regime could dictate uniform and/or color change without the help of a year-long consultation from (insert uniform provider). In this case, the changes stuck!

    I thought Mark Rypien held the title of widest number gap but I guess he’s just a close second.

    So sorry to learn about his passing as yet another of my boyhood is gone. I think he appealed to so many due to his toughness (there’s footage on YouTube of Joe playing in short sleeves in blizzard-like conditions v. SF during that 1969 championship season), plus his grit and lack of finesse made it seem like we all too could somehow become a champion QB. One more recommend: his description and insights regarding SB IV in the “Missing Rings” NFL series (also on YouTube) is fascinating and compelling, astute and insightful.

    One of the things that stuck out to me the first time I saw a picture or video of Joe Kapp (I wasn’t alive yet when he played) is how he often (if not always) wore his chin strap well below his chin, practically on his lower jaw, similar to the way one would fasten a bicycle helmet (along with other styles of helmets too). This is clearly shown in the first picture in article. I never really noticed any other players doing this. Was this common with the single-point chin strap?

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