Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith, All-Pro football player and thespian, was found dead in his Los Angeles home on Wednesday.
Known affectionately as Hightower in the “Police Academy” films, Smith, 66, joined the NFL as a No.1 draft pick from Michigan State University. He was first recruited into the NFL by the Baltimore Colts in 1967.
After five seasons and one championship win with the team, Bubba, a 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive tackle played for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers before an injury ended his football career in 1976.
He was then recruited to appear in Miller Lite beer television commercials. Although his commercial catch-phrases gained popularity, Smith said he had to quit after becoming uncomfortable with condoning alcoholism.
"I went back to Michigan State for the homecoming parade last year," Smith told Los Angeles Times columnist Scott Ostler in 1986. "I was the grand marshal and I was riding in the back seat of this car. Everyone in the stands is drunk. It was like I was contributing to alcohol, and I don't drink. It made me realize I was doing something I didn't want to do."
After his stint as a Miller Lite spokesman, Smith decided to work towards an acting career. The former defensive tackle played Moses Hightower in six “Police Academy” films and took on various television roles, including an appearance in “Half-Nelson,” “Blue Thunder” and “Good Times.”
Guy Magar, writer of the “Blue Thunder” script, told The Wrap News about his experience with the former NFL player turned actor on Wednesday.
"Of all the actors I have ever had the privilege of working with, I can truly say Bubba is high on the most memorable and fun list," Magar wrote. “He was a special soul, a gentle giant, as kind and caring on the film set as he was feared and terrifying to every quarterback that ever faced him on the gridiron."