Briefly: Bubba Smith
Thursday 11 August 2011
Bubba Smith, who died on 3 August aged 66, was an American footballer who went from feared defensive end to playing endearing giants in his successful second career as an actor.
The top overall pick in the 1967 draft after a sensational career at Michigan State, the 6ft 7in Smith spent five seasons with the Baltimore Colts and two seasons each with Oakland and Houston. He won the 1971 Super Bowl with the Colts. "He was a great guy," the Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "He was a giant, the biggest player on the field."
One of the best pass rushers in the game, Smith (left, AP) often drew two blockers, yet was effective enough to make two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. His best work, though, came in college, and he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
As an actor his most memorable role was playing Moses Hightower, the soft-spoken officer in the Police Academy series of films. He also appeared in such television series as Good Times, Charlie's Angels, and Half Nelson.
Born Charles Aaron Smith, he played in high school for his father, Willie Ray Smith, in Beaumont, Texas, before heading to Michigan State, where he played on some of the school's greatest teams under its coach Duffy Daugherty and was one of its best players. Fans in East Lansing, Michigan, would chant, "Kill, Bubba, Kill" during games, and his No 95 jersey was retired in 2006.
"He was a real gentleman, his former Michigan State team-mate Robert Viney said. "He was a helluva player. I will shed some tears tonight because I've lost a great friend. He never sought the spotlight. He was a humble man."
Smith was part of two of the most famous American football games ever played. In 1966, he was at Michigan State when the Spartans and Notre Dame, both undefeated, played a 10-10 tie. Michigan State finished second behind the top-ranked Fighting Irish that season. In 1965 and 1966, Smith helped Michigan State to a record of 19 wins, one tie and one defeat and win consecutive Big Ten titles.
"Bubba was definitely a game changer as a defensive end," another former Michigan State team-mate, Gene Washington, said. "You simply didn't see guys with his size and quickness coming off the defensive line. His ability spoke for itself. He was a great team-mate and a great leader. Bubba never had to say much because he led by example."
In 1969, Smith played for the Baltimore Colts against the New York Jets in the Super Bowl in Miami. Led by Joe Namath, the Jets of the American Football League upset the Colts, National Football League champions, 16-7.
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