Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith

refer to caption

Smith in 2009
No. 78, 77
Position: Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1945-02-28)February 28, 1945
Place of birth: Orange, Texas
Date of death: August 3, 2011(2011-08-03) (aged 66)
Place of death: Los Angeles
Height: 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Weight: 265 lb (120 kg)
Career information
High school: Charlton-Pollard High School
Beaumont, Texas
College: Michigan State
NFL Draft: 1967 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played: 111
Fumble recoveries: 4
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Charles Aaron "Bubba" Smith (February 28, 1945 – August 3, 2011) was an American professional football player who became an actor after his retirement from the sport. He first came into prominence at Michigan State University, where he twice earned All-American honors as a defensive end on the Spartans football team. He had a major role in a 10–10 tie with Notre Dame in 1966 that was billed as "The Game of the Century." He was one of only three players to have his jersey number retired by the program. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.[1]

Smith played nine years in the National Football League (NFL) with the Baltimore Colts (1967–1971), Oakland Raiders (1973–1974) and Houston Oilers (1975–1976). The first selection of the 1967 NFL Draft, he was the Colts' starting left defensive end for five seasons who played in Super Bowls III and V, the latter with the winning side. He was named to two Pro Bowls and was a First-Team All-Pro in 1971.[2] Despite being 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 meters) tall and weighing 265 pounds (120.20 kilograms),[3] he had tremendous speed. This combination usually caused him to draw two blockers.[2]

During his acting career, he mainly specialized in comedic roles in films, television advertisements and programs. For about a decade following his retirement from football, he appeared in various commercials for Miller Lite. His best-known role was as Moses Hightower in the first six Police Academy movies.[4]

Posthumously, Smith was diagnosed to have suffered from CTE, a neurological condition generally related to concussion and sub-concussive head trauma.

Early life

Smith was born on February 28, 1945 in Orange, Texas to Willie Ray Smith Sr. and Georgia Oreatha Curl Smith, and was raised in nearby Beaumont. His father, Willie Ray Smith, Sr., was a football coach who accumulated 235 victories in a career spent at three high schools in the Beaumont area. Smith had the opportunity to play for his father at Charlton-Pollard High School in Beaumont.[2] The younger Smith developed into one of the state's best-ever high school football players.[5]

Football career


Smith originally had hopes of playing college football at the University of Texas. Even though Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal was willing to offer him an athletic scholarship, he was prohibited from doing so because of the prevalent racial segregation throughout the Southern United States. At the time, Texas was a member of the Southwest Conference (SWC), which finally integrated in 1967. The university's football program did not do likewise until three years later in 1970. The situation motivated Smith to become a much better player.[5]

Smith played college football at Michigan State University. He was awarded with All-America honors in 1965 and 1966. Smith was a popular athlete at Michigan State, with the popular fan chant of "Kill, Bubba, Kill."

His final game at Michigan State was a 10–10 tie with Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium on November 19, 1966.[6] It was hyped as "The Game of the Century" because both teams were undefeated, untied and ranked atop the national polls entering the contest (Notre Dame was #1 at 8–0–0, Michigan State #2 at 9–0–0).[7] Early in the first quarter, Smith tackled Fighting Irish starting quarterback Terry Hanratty, who suffered a separated left shoulder on the play. Hanratty was replaced for the remainder of the match by Coley O'Brien. Smith, who admitted that Hanratty's injury actually backfired on the Spartans, stated, "That didn't help us any. It just let them put in that O'Brien who's slippery and faster and gave us more trouble. The other guy just sits there and waits, and that's what we wanted."[8] Michigan State finished second behind Notre Dame in the voting for the national championship.[7]

In 1988, Smith was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Michigan State retired his number 95 jersey on September 23, 2006, prior to the Spartans' home game against Notre Dame, amid repeated cheers of his old slogan from the student section. This game also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the "Game of the Century."


Smith spent nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive end. He was the first overall selection in the 1967 NFL draft, chosen by the Baltimore Colts. The Colts won Super Bowl V at the end of the 1970 season, earning Smith his only Super Bowl ring. However, in interviews, Smith stated that he would never wear the ring, out of a sense of disappointment that he and his teammates were unable to win Super Bowl III.[9] He was injured in the 1972 preseason when he ran into a solid steel pole the NFL was using at the time to mark yardage and missed the season. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders after the 1972 season, and finished his career with the Houston Oilers. He was selected All-Pro one year, All-Conference two years, and went to two Pro Bowls.

Acting career

After leaving professional football, Smith began his acting career in small movie and television roles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is perhaps best known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movie series, a role he reprised in all but one of the Police Academy sequels. Smith appeared in the 1982 TV film Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story. He was Arnold the driver in the 1983 movie Stroker Ace that cast stars such as Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jim Nabors, and Loni Anderson. He was a supporting character in the 1981–82 flop Open All Night. He appeared in the episode "All Night Security Dude" of the hit television series Married... with Children as the character "Spare Tire" Dixon and in "Dud Bowl" (season 09, episode 10) as himself. He was the longtime spokesman of Baltimore-area law firm Cohen, Snyder, Eisenberg & Katzenberg. Smith starred in the short-lived television series Blue Thunder, partnering with Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive star Dick Butkus, with whom he frequently costarred in advertisements for Miller Lite beer, as well as their joint cameo in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). Smith also appeared in Tales of the Gold Monkey, in the episode called "God Save the Queen", along with fellow actor James Avery. He appeared as himself in the first episode of the game show Break the Bank, where he taught two contestants ballet for a chance at a trip to Aruba. He appeared on Good Times as Claude, a bodyguard/thug working for Marion "Sweet Daddy" Williams. He also appeared on an episode of The Odd Couple; when asked by Oscar Madison what his most embarrassing moment was, he replied, "When my mother named me 'Bubba'". Smith appeared in the 1982 Taxi episode "Tony's Comeback" (season 4, episode 19) as a football player trying to get back into the NFL after being cut, who inspires Tony (played by Tony Danza) to earn back his boxing license. Smith also appeared on MacGyver (Season 7, Episode 10). Smith also played a character named "Bones" in the October 22, 1993 episode of Family Matters where he played an enforcer to get his boss's money from Eddie Winslow. At the end he teams up with Steve Urkel to play the accordion.


Year Title Role Notes
1979 A Pleasure Doing Business Joe Marsh
1981 Escape from DS-3 Mac
1983 Stroker Ace Arnold
1984 Police Academy Moses Hightower
Blue Thunder Lyman 'Bubba' Kelsey
1985 Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment Officer Moses Hightower
1986 Black Moon Rising Johnson
Police Academy 3: Back in Training Sgt. Moses Hightower
1987 Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Sgt. Moses Hightower
The Wild Pair Benny Avalon
1988 Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach Sgt. Moses Hightower
1989 Police Academy 6: City Under Siege Lt. Moses Hightower
Stuck with Each Other Augie
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Himself
1992 The Naked Truth The Cop
My Samurai Reverend George
1993 Fist of Honor Detective Johnson
1994 The Silence of the Hams Olaf
1995 Drifting School Peter Jackson
2000 The Flunky Bubba Smith
2001 Down 'n Dirty Det. Jerry Cale
2004 The Coach Hulk Referee
2006 Full Clip Sleepy
2008 Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football Himself
2010 Blood River Harold
2016 DaZe: Vol. Too (sic) – NonSeNse Bubba (Last appearance)

Personal life

Smith's younger brother Tody Smith played for the University of Southern California and for the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills


Smith was found dead in his Los Angeles home by his caretaker on August 3, 2011. He died from acute drug intoxication and heart disease. Phentermine, a weight-loss drug, was found in his system. His heart weighed more than twice that of an average human heart. He was 66 years old.[10][11][12]

CTE Diagnosis

On May 24, 2016, it was announced that Smith had suffered from the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE), a neurodegenerative illness afflicting unknown numbers of former athletes in contact sports. The findings were confirmed by researchers affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and released with the permission of the executor of Smith's estate.[13][14][15][16]

Smith is the 90th former N.F.L. player found to have had C.T.E. by the researchers at the Boston University brain bank; they have examined 94 former pro players. According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, On a scale of 1 to 4 used by the neuropathologist who examined Smith's brain, Smith had Stage 3 C.T.E., with symptoms that included cognitive impairment and problems with judgment and planning.[13][16]


  1. "Former Two-Time All-American Bubba Smith Passes Away At Age 66". msuspartans.com. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "Local football legend Bubba Smith dies at 66". Beaumont Enterprise. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  3. "Bubba Smith". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  4. "Bubba Smith obituary: NFL player turned beer pitchman dies at 66". Los Angeles Times. 4 August 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  5. 1 2 "Justice: Bubba Smith made his mark in unique way". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  6. 2011 Michigan State University Football Media Guide.
  7. 1 2 "The Game of the Century"; #1 Notre Dame 10, #2 Michigan State 10; November 19, 1966. Archived July 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "Bleacher Report". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  9. "America's Game". NFL Films. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  10. "Bubba Smith, NFL star and 'Police Academy' actor, found dead at home", Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2011, accessed August 3, 2011.
  11. "Bubba Smith Dead — 'Police Academy' Star Dies at 66". tmz.com. 3 August 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  12. "Bubba Smith dies of drug intoxication, coroner says". latimes.com. 2 November 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  13. 1 2 Belson, Ken (May 24, 2016). "Bubba Smith, N.F.L. Star and Actor, Had C.T.E.". New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  14. Perez, A.J (May 24, 2016). "Former NFL player Bubba Smith had brain disease CTE when he died". USA Today. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  15. "Concussion group says Bubba Smith had CTE". Associated Press. May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  16. 1 2 Vinton, Nathaniel (May 24, 2016). "NFL great Bubba Smith, who played Hightower in 'Police Academy' movies, had stage 3 CTE". NY Daily news. Retrieved May 24, 2016.

External links

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