Bubba Smith, who won Super Bowl in 1971 and became famous for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies has died aged 66. The larger-than-life actor and sportsman was found in his LA home one Wednesday.
The cause of death was not determined immediately, but the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said in a statement: “There is no indication of anything other than natural death.”
Smith’s former Michigan State teammate Gene Washington told the Detroit Free Press: “I had no idea that he was even ill or that anything could be wrong. It’s incredibly sad, because Bubba was such a larger-than-life figure. Nothing surprised you with Bubba.”
Bubba Smith was 6’7” tall and weighed in at 300lbs. He was born in Texas under the name of Charles Aaron Smith and acquired his name in through his fierce defensive play on the field at Michigan State University. He went on to play for the Baltimore Colts in 1967, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers. He retired from the sport in 1976.
His acting career began as small roles in shows like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels. He was also the face of Miller Lite Beer in its 70s and 80s commercials – a lucrative job he eventually decided to quite because he was himself teetotal. He fell into his prolific role of florist-turned-cop Moses in Police Academy in 1984.
Although information on Smith’s survivors is not available. he will be missed by many, including his good friend Gene Washington, who grew up amid the same racial prejudices Smith faced.
“If it wasn’t for Bubba, I never would have gotten to Michigan State. His father (Willie Ray Smith) was his football coach and he told (Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty) that he should recruit me as well,” said Washington.
The pair competed against each other, playing for exclusively black high schools. Smith was rejected from his preferred choice- University of Texas – on the basis of his skin colour. In a 2008 HBO documentary Breaking the Huddle, Smith said he could never understand why the university did not take him on. He said this only served to push him harder to make the school and Texans regret their attitudes.
Michigan State would of course be forever appreciative of their Southern brethren’s intolerance.
“He was quite simply one of the greatest football players ever,” says Washington.
Click here to read more about NFL legend George Blanda, who passed away at the age of 83, and our coverage about Bronco Denver player Kenny Mckinley who was found dead at home and NFL star Julius Peppers
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