His Story

In the spring of 1975, Joe Roth, a 19 year old transfer student from Grossmont College in San Diego, enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. Joe hoped to earn a degree, meet new people, and learn more about himself. In his two short years at Cal, Joe accomplished so much more.

Joe was a quiet, down to earth guy who was dedicated to his school work. He was a Physical Education major who would have blended in perfectly with the general student body if not for one major difference, the golden right arm attached to his body. His arrival on the Cal campus was not by coincidence. Joe was a quarterback recruited from Grossmont to play football. And play football he did!

On 22 Fall Saturday’s during the 1975 and 1976 seasons, Joe crafted his quarterbacking skills, became a Heisman Trophy contender, and dazzled NFL scouts. Joe’s on-field presence and leadership skills won over his teammates while his gentle demeanor and team-first attitude captured not only the hearts of Cal football fans but of an entire University campus. Joe was the face of the Cal football team and he elegantly represented the ideals of a student-athlete by excelling in both the classroom and on the field.

In January 1977, while preparing for the Hula Bowl, a post-season all-star game in Honolulu, HI, Joe revealed publicly for the first time that he was again suffering from cancer (melanoma). Unbeknownst to most of his friend, fans, teammates, and classmates, Joe had battled cancer once before. While no one really knows for sure when the cancer returned, it is believed Joe played the 1976 season knowing something was different.

Silently and unknowingly during the 1976 season, the gridiron became much more than a football field for Joe. The gridiron became Joe’s classroom and on Saturdays Joe taught his teammates, classmates, friends, fan, and family members just what it meant to cherish life. Joe was determined to live his life without pity, excuses, blame, and special attention. His teammates later said that Joe showed everyone how to face adversity with faith, humility, and courage and how to never give up.

On February 19, 1977, just three months from his 22nd birthday, Joe lost his battle to cancer and we lost a friend, a son, a brother, a teammate, a classmate, a hero, a role-model, and an outstanding human being. And yet, while we lost, we also gained a clear example on how to embrace adversity, to live life to the fullest, and to never give up. Twenty five months after stepping onto the Berkeley campus Joe’s journey was complete. He arrived as a student and ultimately left a teacher.