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Bubba Smith, Football Star and 'Police Academy' Actor, Dies

Bubba Smith
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

He was 66 and is believed to have died of natural causes.

Bubba Smith, a football star who went on to play a lovable lug in the Police Academy films and Miller Lite commercials, was found dead Wednesday at his Baldwin Hills home in Los Angeles. He was 66.

Smith's body was discovered by a caretaker, police said. Officials believe he died of natural causes.

The 6-foot-7 Charles Aaron Smith was a defensive lineman and future College Football Hall of Famer at Michigan State, then played nine seasons in the pros with the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers from 1967-76.

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In the slapstick Police Academy films of the 1980s, Smith’s character, the aptly named Moses Hightower, hovered over his fellow misfit cadets in the franchise’s first film in 1984 and its five sequels. A florist joining the academy, Hightower had immense strength but was the most soft-spoken of all the characters that included Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf), Larvelle Jones (Michael Winslow) and Zed McGlunk (Bobcat Goldthwait).
 
Smith also starred in the short-lived television series Blue Thunder, partnering with Dick Butkus, another former NFL defensive star, and had regular roles in such other series as Semi-Tough, Open All Night and Half Nelson. He appeared in Blood River, a 2010 indie film.
 
In the 1970s, Smith appeared in several Miller Lite commercials alongside the likes of Butkus, Rodney Dangerfield and Larry Csonka. In one memorable spot, he rips off the top of a beer can and he says, “I also love the easy-opening can.”
 
As a senior with Michigan State, Smith played in a legendary November 1966 game against Notre Dame in which Fighting Irish coach Ara Parseghian elected to run out the clock in a 10-10 tie, thus preserving his team’s No. 1 ranking. Both teams finished the season undefeated, but the Spartans finished second in the polls.
 
In East Lansing, Mich., Smith was extremely popular, with fans chanting, “Kill, Bubba, Kill.” Michigan State retired his No. 95 jersey in 2006.
 
The first overall selection in the 1967 NFL draft by the Colts, Smith, a native of Beaumont, Texas, won the Super Bowl V with Baltimore two years after losing the title game to the New York Jets and Joe Namath in a memorable upset.