Funny scene after last night’s NFL opener, when Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes for Denver, first time it’s been done since Joe Kapp did it in 1969. Manning was described as a student of the game by NBC interviewer Michelle Tafoya, and Manning later said in reference to Kapp, “Yeah, Joe Kapp, great Canadian quarterback out of Cal.”
Well, that’s actually not bad on Manning’s part, except the reference to Kapp being Canadian. He was born in Santa Fe, N.M. and went to high school in southern California, and is a fairly mythic figure in Cal football annals. The “Canadian” reference Manning made arose from Kapp’s long career in the Canadian Football League before he went to the NFL.
Let’s start with this: I can’t believe Joe Kapp is one of a handful of NFL quarterbacks to have thrown seven touchdown passes. He was renowned for fluttering, duck-like throws, but indeed, there it is — a seven-touchdown effort with Minnesota in 1969. It seems amazing that with today’s Star Wars passing numbers, that nobody since Kapp — Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Jim Kelly, Drew Brees — has done it.
Kapp was the last quarterback to take Cal to the Rose Bowl, back in the 1958 season, 55 years ago. In the ’80s, he became head coach of his alma mater, and he was a legendary figure who liked his tequila and was positively rapturous about Cal. I recall a scene back in the day of the old Pac-10 Skywriters — media who would tour league campuses to preview the football season — when Kapp was standing up, singing the praises of Cal and telling the scribes how Strawberry Canyon was the best place in the country and Memorial Stadium was the greatest anywhere. Seated in the front row, as always, was Joe Hendrickson of the Pasadena Star-News, a prim, likeable gentleman and a Rose Bowl historian. When Kapp made his boast about his stadium being the best, Joe Hendrickson piped up, right on cue: “Joe, what about the Rose Bowl?”
Kapp later got involved in a weird incident in Seattle in 1986, when, in a post-game interview setting after a UW blowout of the Bears, Kapp unzipped his pants. He was gone after that season, taking with him a familiar motto that had endeared him to Bear fans: “The Bear will not quit! The Bear will not die!”
Manning also made reference to an infamous fight the pugnacious Kapp got into a couple of years ago while in Canada at an awards presentation with an old rival, Angelo Mosca. I can’t tell you the back story on that one, but if you want to check out two septuagenarians duking it out, it’s right there on YouTube.