Joe Roth (American football)
California Golden BearsNo. 12
Major: {{{major}}}
Date of birth: (1955-05-29)May 29, 1955
Place of birth: San Diego, California
Career history
High school: Granite Hills
(El Cajon, California)
* Grossmont (1973–1974)
  • Cal (1975–1976)
Bowl games
1977 Hula Bowl
1977 Japan Bowl
Career highlights and awards
  • N/A

Joseph Lawrence Roth (1955–1977)[1] was a college football player, an All-American quarterback at the University of California, Berkeley. Roth played the 1976 season knowing he was dying of melanoma, and he died in February 1977, three months after his last regular season game and just weeks after playing an all-star game in Japan. His jersey, number 12, is the only one ever retired by California Golden Bears football program.


A 1973 graduate of Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Roth led Grossmont College of El Cajon to an undefeated season and state title in 1974, and transferred to University of California, Berkeley in 1975.[2]

Originally a back-up, he started the fourth game of the 1975 season, and led the California Golden Bears to the Pac-8 title as co-champions.[3] Cal led the nation in total offense, gaining the same yardage both passing and rushing with 2,522 yards each.[4]

In 1976, Roth was a pre-season favorite for the Heisman Trophy. The season was more tumultuous, and towards the end of the year Roth's performance started to drop, but he was named an All-American and finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.[5]

After the season ended, he revealed that halfway through the season he had been diagnosed with terminal melanomaTemplate:Sndapparently the metastasis of a mole that had been removed from his face several years earlier. Despite his deteriorating physical condition, he honored his commitments to play in both the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl. According to a friend's reminiscence, during the Japan Bowl festivities Roth had agreed to sit for a thirty-minute autograph session; but finding, at the end of the scheduled time, hundreds of children still waiting, he continued to sign until every child had an autograph, after which he left the building and vomited.[6]

"Dying is not so tough. For the last three years I've lived with the realization that the next day might be my last. I'm lucky to be here as long as I was, so don't feel any pity."Template:Hsp[7]

By mid-February he was in the hospital, where (in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle)

a doctor wanted to amputate both legs, but Roth did not want to die in pieces. What he wanted was to die among his friends and family at his Berkeley apartment. The ambulance delivered him, and his teammates carried him up three flights of stairs. Two days later, they carried his body back down.[8]

Roth died February 19, 1977, at age 21.


File:North end of Memorial Stadium set up for UCLA at Cal 10-25-08.JPG

NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle opened the 1977 NFL Draft with a moment of silence for Roth.[9]

Posthumously, Roth received the Berkeley Citation in 1977,[10] awarded to those "whose attainments significantly exceed the standards of excellence in their fields and whose contributions to UC Berkeley are manifestly above and beyond the call of duty." In 2000, he was inducted into the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame.[11] Several awards are named for him, including the Joe Roth Award, for the high school player in the San Diego area who best demonstrates courage; the Joe Roth Memorial Award, given to the San Diego County junior college football player who best exemplifies high academic standards and athletic excellence; the Joe Roth Memorial Award, which was given as the MVP award for the Japan Bowl;[12] and the Joe Roth Award, given to the Cal football player who best demonstrates courage, attitude, and sportsmanship.[13]

Cal football designates each year's home game against either USC or UCLA as the Joe Roth Memorial Game.[14] Cal wore throwback uniforms similar to those the Bears wore during Roth's career for the 2007 Roth Memorial Game and will continue to do so, starting 2017.[15]

A documentary, Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story, was released in 2015.[8][16]


  1. "Dates". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  2. Haran, Tim (November 9, 2001). "Joe Roth Locker Dedication Nov. 9". Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  3. "California Yearly Results". Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  4. Reneau, Kevin (October 17, 2000). "25th Anniversary of Cal's Pac-8 Championship Team of 1975". Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  5. "Heisman Trophy (1976)". Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  6. Snapp, Martin (November 2, 2015). "The Selfless Quarterback: Cancer Intercepted Joe Roth’s Career, Not His Enduring Legacy". California Magazine (Cal Alumni Association).
  7. "Behind the Helmet: The Life of Joe Roth".
  8. 8.0 8.1 Whiting, Sam (October 27, 2015). "Documentary pays tribute to Cal football hero Joe Roth". San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. Breech, John (April 27, 2014). "FLASHBACK: Top QB in 1977 NFL Draft died two months before draft". Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  10. "Berkeley Citation – Past Recipients". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  11. "Joe Roth Bio". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  12. "Japan Bowl Trophy". Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  13. "Cal Football Team Awards". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  14. "Golden Bears Honor Memory of Joe Roth With Throwback Uniforms". November 10, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  15. "Cal, Under Armour reveal throwback Joe Roth uniforms". September 6, 2017. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  16. "Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story". 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Template:California Golden Bears quarterback navbox

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