NFL star turned thesp was 65

Bubba Smith, an All-Pro defensive end who played most of his nine-year NFL career with the Baltimore Colts, winning a Super Bowl championship with them before switching occupations to become an actor, most notably as a mainstay of the “Police Academy” film comedies, was found dead on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 66. The cause of death was unknown, but natural causes are suspected.

After retiring from professional football in 1976, Smith began a career in TV, including as a pitchman for Miller Lite in a series of noted commercials, and later film. He guested on “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “The White Shadow,” and he had a recurring role on CBS sitcom “Good Times.”

He was a series regular on three brief ABC series: 1980’s “Semi-Tough,” an adaptation of the film; sitcom “Open All Night” in 1981-82; and an adaptation of action film “Blue Thunder” in 1984. On NBC, he starred with Dick Butkus in the brief comedy “Half Nelson” in 1985.

During the 1980s, the “Police Academy” films, in which he portrayed the strong but soft-spoken Moses Hightower, provided Smith with steadier employment.

Smith continued guesting on TV series during the 1990s and appeared in a few films during the 2000s: “Down ‘n Dirty,” “The Coach,” “Full Clip” and 2010’s “Blood River.”

Born in Beaumont, Texas, Charles Aaron Smith was a three-time NCAA All-American at Michigan State (he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988), and he was selected by the Baltimore Colts as the No. 1 pick in the NFL’s 1967 college draft. He also played professionally for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers.

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