By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – Approximately 250 Cal dignitaries congregated in the Field Club at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday evening for an invitation-only private screening of “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story,” a tear-jerking, powerful documentary about the remarkable and tragic life of the former Cal star quarterback.
The documentary, which has been about five years in the making, is expected to be distributed to a wider audience this fall. It features dozens of interviews, including former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy as well as several of Roth’s former teammates and coaches.
“The Joe Roth Story is the biggest secret in the history of college athletics,” said former Cal coach Mike White, who emceed Wednesday’s screening.
The project was born because of Cal alums Phil Schaaf and Bob Rider, who set out to tell Roth’s story of determination, humanity, and ultimately, tragedy. Roth died at the age of 21 after a bout with melanoma, just a few months after his senior season at Cal. He entered that year as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and the projected No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
After a procedure to have a cancerous mole removed from his face during his freshman year at Grossmont College in San Diego, he was cancer-free for awhile and had a breakout junior season during his first year at Cal. But a chest X-ray revealed the cancer returned and had spread early during his senior season.
Roth played through the rest of the season, despite losing strength with each passing game. Through it all, he kept his illness a secret to most people and aimed to appear as normal as possible.
“In the end, it has nothing to do with the sport,” Schaaf said. “Instead, it’s about human elegance in the face of unfathomable adversity. In Joe’s case, it’s against this backdrop of athletic greatness.”
The film is narrated by legendary announcer Keith Jackson.
Click here for more information about the documentary.