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NFL star turned actor Bubba Smith dies at 66

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By The Los Angeles Times
Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011
 

LOS ANGELES — Bubba Smith, a former All-Pro football player turned actor and commercial pitch man who delighted TV viewers by wrenching off the tops of "easy-opening cans" of beer, was found dead Wednesday at his Los Angeles home. He was 66.

The cause of death has not been determined, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said.

A caretaker found Smith at his home in Los Angeles' Baldwin Hills section, police said.

A 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end, Smith was the No. 1 NFL draft pick from Michigan State when he joined the Baltimore Colts in 1967.

He played five seasons for the Colts, which included their upset loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III and a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. He spent two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and two more with the Houston Oilers before a knee injury ended his career in 1976.

After football, Smith was recruited to the ranks of former professional athletes who appeared as themselves in commercials for Miller Lite beer. He and fellow NFL veteran Dick Butkus were cast as inept golfers and polo players in the TV spots. Smith was also featured solo in one commercial extolling the virtues of the beer, beaming into the camera, "I also love the easy-opening cans," while ripping off the top of the can.

Charles Aaron Smith was born Feb. 28, 1945, in Orange, Texas, and grew up in Beaumont, where his mother was a teacher and his father was his high school football coach.

At Michigan State, Smith became an All-America defensive end for the Spartans, who went 19-1-1 his last two seasons. He also earned a bachelor's degree in sociology.

His brother Tody, a star at USC and in the NFL, later became Bubba's agent. He died at 50 in 1999.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

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