NFL Player Turned Actor Bernie Casey Dies At 78

(Photo credit: R. Mora/Getty Images)

Standing at an elegant six-foot-four, actor and former NFL player used to thrill audiences with his deep voice and cool demeanor. The celebrated actor and artist who appeared in a number of scene-stealing films and TV shows is no more, dying August 20, 2017 at the age of 78

In an eight-year NFL career, Casey finished in the Top 10 in receiving four times. His best season came in 1967 with the Rams, when he was chosen to the Pro Bowl and scored the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of a key late-season win over the Packers, helping the Rams earn a playoff berth.

When Casey announced his retirement in 1969 at the age of 29, he said he had other things he wanted to do with his life. He had already written and starred in one-man plays, and he intended to paint and have a book of poetry published as well. In 1977, when a New York Times interviewer asked if he had any thoughts on football, Casey answered, “Actually, I’m working on a volume of love poetry now.”

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In comedic or dramatic roles, as a painter or a poet, as a wide receiver or a hurdler, Bernie Casey was one of a kind.

Casey’s first movie role came in Guns of the Magnificent Seven, a sequel to the classic The Magnificent Seven. He suited up as a football player one more time to appear in Brian’s Song, and he later had roles in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, and in 1980s comedies like Revenge of the Nerds and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Many of us remember him in the cult classic, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.

On television, Casey played a minor-league baseball coach who could still hit on the short-lived Steven Bochco drama Bay City Blues and was in Roots: The Next Generations and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Casey received an honorary doctorate degree from The Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design, where he served for years as chairman of the board and advocated for arts education.

A true renaissance man, Casey was also a painter. He had many fans of his paintings.

“I cannot see what Bernie Casey sees,” legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou said in 2003 to promote an exhibit of his work. “Casey has the heart and the art to put his insight on canvas, and I am heartened by his action. For then I can comprehend his vision and some of my own. His art makes my road less rocky, and my path less crooked.”