Tim Rossovich, USC and Philadelphia Eagles Star Turned Actor, Dies at 72

Courtesy of USC
Tim Rossovich in his days with Southern Cal

He was called "the first football hero of the Aquarius generation" in a 1971 profile for NFL Films.

Tim Rossovich, the colorful defensive end and linebacker who starred at Southern Cal and with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles before becoming an actor, has died. He was 72.

Rossovich died Thursday in Sacramento, California, following a long illness, USC announced.

Rossovich roomed with Tom Selleck in college, and he appeared on three episodes of Selleck's CBS series Magnum, P.I. from 1986-88.

Six-foot-4 and 245 pounds in his prime, Rossovich got started in Hollywood by doing stunts on the 1978 Burt Reynolds film Hooper. He played a bodyguard on the first and second seasons of ABC's Soap in 1978 and '79 and was a boxer in the Barbra Streisand-Ryan O'Neal movie The Main Event (1979).

He later showed up on other shows including Matt Houston, Hart to Hart, The A-Team, Remington Steele, The Fall Guy, The New Mike Hammer, Hunter, MacGyver, Jake and the Fatman and Baywatch and on the big screen in The Long Riders (1980), Looker (1981), Night Shift (1982) and The Sting II (1983).

An All-American, Rossovich played at USC from 1965-68 and was a co-captain on Coach John McKay's 1967 national championship team led by O.J. Simpson.

The Eagles selected him with the No. 14 pick in the 1968 NFL Draft, and he spent four seasons in Philadelphia, with a Pro Bowl appearance in 1969.

NFL Films profiled him in 1971 in a 25-minute featurette, "The New Breed," with narrator John Facenda calling him "the first football hero of the Aquarius generation." At the time, Rossovich rarely got a haircut, had a bushy mustache and lived in Manhattan Beach, California.

"I consider myself a hippie in all the good ways," he says in the film. "I dress in different clothes and grow my hair long because I have this feeling of independence. I think the youth of today can look at me and associate with me more than the average football player. They can see a person with long hair doesn't have to be associated with something bad."

He set himself on fire during a Sports Illustrated photo shoot.

As John Underwood wrote for SI, also in 1971: "The stories are endless. Tim Rossovich had this motorbike. He drove it onto a pier. He drove it off the pier. Splash! Tim Rossovich had this car. It was one of many cars that suffered beyond repair at his hand. He drove the fellows in the car to a pub to get a beer. In order to stop the car, he drove it into the wall of the pub. Crash! Tim Rossovich was sitting at a table where the conversation lagged. He was smoking a cigarette. Suddenly he was not smoking the cigarette. He was eating it. Chomp! Tim Rossovich was opening a bottle of beer. He was opening it with his teeth. Actually, he was having a bottle-opening contest with Mike Ditka, the tight end. It was no contest. Tim Rossovich had opened 100 bottles to Ditka's three when he began to drink the beer. Then he began to eat the beer glass. Crackle! Crunch! Mike Ditka withdrew from the contest."

After the Eagles, Rossovich played with the San Diego Chargers, the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League and the Houston Oilers before ending his football career in 1976.

One of five children, he was born on March 14, 1946, in Palo Alto, California, not far from the Stanford University campus. He attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View before arriving at Southern Cal.

He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.

Survivors include his wife, Lauren; his daughter, Jaime; his father, Frank; his brother, Rick Rossovich, also an actor; and two sisters.