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Bernie Casey, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ Actor and Former NFL Player, Dies at 78

Bernie Casey, the former NFL star known for his work in the films “Boxcar Bertha” and “Revenge of the Nerds,” died on Tuesday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, Variety has confirmed. He was 78.

Casey made his film debut in the 1969 sequel “Guns of the Magnificent Seven.” He then acted alongside fellow former NFL star Jim Brown in the crime dramas “…tick…tick…tick…” and “Black Gunn.” He played the title role in the 1972 science fiction TV film “Gargoyles,” and then portrayed Tamara Dobson’s love interest in 1973’s “Cleopatra Jones.”

Casey wrote, directed, produced, and starred in “The Dinner,” a 1997 film centering on three black men who discuss slavery, black self-loathing, and homophobia. That same year, he loosely portrayed a version George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party who was killed, in the drama “Brothers.”

In Martin Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha,” he played a heroic former slave and train robber, and then a recurring character in Bond films, CIA agent Felix Leiter. In 1981, he portrayed a detective opposite another former NFL player-turned-actor, Burt Reynolds, in “Sharky’s Machine,” which was directed by Reynolds. The two worked together a few years later on “Rent-a-Cop.”

His prolific acting career also included films such as “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Black Chariot,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “In the Mouth of Madness,” “The Glass Shield,” “Mr. Hyde,” “Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored,” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” On television, he was in “Roots: The Next Generations,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and “Bay City Blues.”

Casey was born in Wyco, W.Va., and raised in Columbus, Ohio, before attending Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship. There, in addition to his football successes, he was a record-breaking track and field athlete, and competed in the 1960 U.S. Olympic trials.

He was picked ninth overall in the NFL draft, and spent six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before going to the Rams for two years. He retired at age 30 and finished his professional career with 359 catches for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns.

After leaving the NFL, he dabbled in acting, painting, and poetry. Casey received an honorary doctorate degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He advocated for arts education and served as chairman of the board at the Georgia school. Casey was both a published poet and painter, whose work appeared in galleries across the globe.

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