clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Joe Roth is a story every Pac-12 fan should know more about

The Joe Roth story has somehow largely slipped through the cracks.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Roth

Sometimes even the best stories seem to slip through the cracks. Unless you are a Cal fan, Joe Roth, might be one of those stories.

When I recently stumbled upon the Joe Roth story, I instantly couldn't believe that I had never heard it being a huge Pac-12 fan.

Once I was over the shock of my ignorance, I dove into the story and was completely engrossed.

For those who aren't familiar with the story, I won't do it justice by giving you an explanation, but in a nutshell, Joe Roth was a JC transfer quarterback at Cal who overcame cancer as a college freshman and had a phenomenal junior season in 1975. The story takes a turn early in Roth's senior season when he learned early in the season that his cancer may have returned. He didn't tell any of his teammates or coaches about the concern though and fought through his final season of play. After the season he would be diagnosed with terminal cancer and he would pass on in 1976 shortly after playing in college all star games.

Once I heard the full story, I wondered how it hadn't been given a Brian's Song or 30 For 30 treatment, but I quickly discovered that there was a new documentary about Joe's story, Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story. I was able to talk with Phil Schaaf, co-director and writer of the documentary and get some more insight into the documentary, but more-importantly Joe Roth. Phil was able to also share, the documentary with me and I suggest you see it if you get the chance.

The important thing about the Joe Roth documentary is that it exists because there is so little material about Joe out there. You can find out the fascinating outline of Joe's story on Wikipedia and in random articles, but it is very hard to get too deep.

So until you have a chance to see "Don't Quit," here are some takeaways from the movie that add to the Joe Roth story that can't quickly find online.

Joe Roth was a great quarterback with serious pro potential who was ahead of his time

There isn't a ton of video out there online of Roth, but "Don't Quit" features a ton and I was struck by how modern of a quarterback Roth looked. He had a Dan Marino Tecmo Bowl-level release where he could face pressure and deliver a strike downfield and knew how to throw a receiver open. Because of these skills, he threw for a lot of yards at a time where QBs just weren't putting up big numbers.

A number of well-respected football personalities believe that Roth would have been a top draft pick and had a shot at NFL stardom if he had stayed healthy and I have to agree.

Well-known Dallas Cowboys personnel Director, Gil Brandt, stated in "Don't Quit" that Roth could have been the first pick in the 1976 and at worst probably would have went in the Top Five.

Joe Roth was a great family member, teammate and friend

Talking with one of the makers of the documentary, the biggest takeaway he genuinely seemed to convey was that all of the 160 people they talked to could not say enough about what a great person Joe was. Watching the documentary you can really see it come through, even 40 years later, so many people had great things to say about Joe.

Joe Roth was an inspiration and so is his story

Roth's attitude and enthusiasm despite his horrible luck of the draw is my biggest take away from the documentary. Just from reading his story, it seemed like a harrowing tear-jerker, but when you dive in deeper, there is a lot of inspiration in there. I think the best example of this is when his play started to suffer his senior year and he avoided revealing his diagnosis to blame his illness. He stuck in there, kept playing hard and never made excuses.

"Don't Quit" co-director and writer Phil Schaaf perfectly explained why Joe is such an inspiration.

"The universal takeaway is that the public got to know Joe because he was a great quarterback. To all those who knew him personally, the fact that he played football was far down the list in terms of the way they would describe him, which is remarkable."

Joe Roth's story needs to be told

At a time when there seems to be a lot of negatively floating around in the media, Joe's humble behavior and attitude in the face of indescribable pain and heartache, is a timeless example of inspiration.

The makers of the film also pointed out that one of the reasons they made the documentary was to raise awareness for melanoma (the disease that took Roth's life) as the film was the idea of co-director Bob Rider, who lost his sister Kerry to the disease in 2003.

You can watch his story...

"Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story is available on iTunes and DVD thru the film's site and here