Dick Capp said he doesn’t like to live in the past.
This time of year that can be difficult. Capp, a 1960 Deering High graduate, is the only Maine native to have played in a Super Bowl.
He was a member of the Green Bay Packers team that won Super Bowl II 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders at the Orange Bowl in Miami. And he made what many believe to be the pivotal play in the game.
“It was a great experience being part of that team,” said Capp, now 73, by phone from his home in Cary, North Carolina. “(Vince) Lombardi, (Bart) Starr, (Ray) Nitschke. What a great bunch of players. We had a great team.”
It was a simpler time. Capp looks at today’s media coverage of the Super Bowl and laughs a little. Around 5,000 media members are in San Francisco this year. There were fewer than 500 in Miami.
But that didn’t lessen the significance of the game.
“Even though it’s nothing like the press coverage and pomp and circumstance that it is today, it still was huge,” he said. “You know you’re playing in a big game. I got interviewed from someone on the New York Times. Me. I wasn’t even a starter. We were all going, ‘Holy smokes, if one of the subs was interviewed by the New York Times, it must be a big game.’ ”
And Capp delivered. Green Bay led 13-7 late in the first half and was forced to punt from its 17. Oakland’s Rodger Bird attempted to catch Donny Anderson’s punt at midfield but muffed it. Capp – who was activated for the Super Bowl after not playing for months – recovered the ball at the Oakland 45 with 23 seconds left in the first half. The Packers got a field goal to go up 16-7 at the half. The NFL highlight video of that game points to that play as a turning point.
Capp said he was fortunate to be the one who recovered the it.
“There were three of us there, it just bounced up,” he said. “And I had pretty good hands.”
But he jokingly never lets his former teammates know who made the play. “We have reunions in Green Bay a lot when we get together for a couple of days,” he said. “And I always kid the veterans that if it wasn’t for that play, they wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.”
Capp’s journey to Green Bay began at Deering, where he played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. He was tall and lean – about 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, he said, growing to 6-4, 240 in the pros – athletic, fast and smart. The Rams won the 1959 Class A football state championship his senior year.
Bruce Koharian, a former track coach at Deering, was a sophomore when Capp was a senior at Deering. He said if anyone from that team was going to make it big, it was Capp.
“We had good players but he had the size, speed and intelligence to achieve it,” said Koharian. “He was a great guy and he certainly had the respect of everyone else.”
Koharian met Capp last Thanksgiving when Capp returned to Portland.
“I hadn’t seen him in maybe 50 years,” Koharian said. “He hadn’t changed.”
After Deering, Capp went to Worcester Academy for a year, then to Boston College, where he was going to play basketball. One day the football coach walked through basketball practice, looking for players to join his team. Capp caught his eye and soon he was playing football.
His years at BC, he said, were instrumental in getting him a chance to play pro football.
“We weren’t great but we had a lot of smart guys who were really dedicated in both basketball and football,” he said. “Most guys were there to get an education. When I played football, we had smart guys who were playing hard. I hung out with some really good guys.
“And I was lucky I chose to hang out with good guys. Not all were athletes, but either good students or good influences.”
Capp was drafted by the Boston Patriots in the 17th round of the 1966 draft. He was put on the Patriots’ taxi squad (now the practice squad) and played minor league football in Massachusetts. He was noticed by Lombardi, the great Packers coach, and signed with Green Bay as a tight end/linebacker in 1967. The Packers, coming off a Super Bowl I victory over Kansas City, were a veteran club so Capp didn’t play much.
He was active for the first two games of the season, then placed on the taxi squad. And that was fine with him.
“That was a fun team to be around,” he said. “The veterans were extremely confident. They knew about momentum, they knew about being behind in the score, they knew to keep your cool and execute.”
He made his mark playing special teams. “I was good at it; it was the only reason I made the Packers,” he said.
He played only the 1967 season with Green Bay, then one more year with Pittsburgh before leaving the game.
While he never played again, he left with great memories and a Super Bowl ring. He knows he was part of something special.
“I was kind of a low-key person and that may have shortened my career,” he said. “But I was excited to be part of that championship. To win it all is such a great accomplishment.”