Bubba Smith, former All-Pro football star and beloved Police Academy actor, has died at the age of 66. A caretaker found Smith dead in his Los Angeles home on Wednesday, according to police. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but the Los Angeles County coroner's office states that there is "no indication of anything other than natural death."
Football fans knew Smith as an All-Pro defensive lineman and as a member of the 1971 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Colts, but he was beloved to a wider audience for his portrayal of florist-turned-cop Moses Hightower in six Police Academy movies. Smith also appeared in numerous television series, including Wonder Woman, Taxi, Good Times and Charlie's Angels.
Born Charles Aaron Smith on Feb. 28, 1945, in Orange, Texas, his mother was a teacher and his father was a high school football coach. Smith attended Michigan State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in sociology, was an All-American defensive end for the Spartans, and played in the famed "Game of the Century": a 10-10 tie vs. Notre Dame. In 1967, the 6-foot-7-inch, 280-pound Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joining the Baltimore Colts. He played for the Colts for five seasons and then moved on to play with the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers. A knee injury ended his football career in 1976.
Smith's first big post-football career move was to appear as himself in a series of Miller Lite commercials, featuring the new "easy-opening can" and a catchphrase that caught on like wildfire: "Tastes great, less filling." Smith -- who was himself a non-drinker -- eventually bowed out of the contract with Miller Lite because he felt he shouldn't be promoting alcohol consumption.
Smith liked being in front of the camera, however, and so he launched an acting career. He started out with TV guest spots before hitting paydirt with his role in the first Police Academy movie in 1984. He returned for five sequels.
Gene Washington, Smith's former Michigan State teammate, 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."