Bernie Casey, the former NFL star turned actor, has died at the age of 78. The actor was best known for his roles in movies like Revenge of the Nerds and I'm Gonna Git you Sucka. Casey died of an illness in a Los Angeles hospital, but the specific illness has not yet been revealed.
A rep for Bernie Casey confirmed the news of his death to People, saying that he passed away with his family and loved ones by his side. The actor had spent the last few days at the hospital after coming down with an illness before passing away. His work in Hollywood spanned nearly four decades, with his final credited role being in 2007's Vegas Vampires.
Before transitioning into his life as a professional actor, Bernie Casey was a decorated and talented athlete. In his younger years, Casey was a record-breaking track and field athlete at Bowling Green University. During his time there, he earned All-American honors and a trip to the finals at the 1960 U.S. Olympic Trials. After his track and field career in college, he moved on to a career in football. Casey was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers as a top 10 pick, and played in the NFL as a wide-receiver for eight seasons, earning trips to the Pro Bowl. He retired at the age of 30 with 359 catches for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Following his prolific career as an NFL player, Bernie Casey decided to try his hand out at acting. He made his debut in the 1969 sequel, Guns of the Magnificent Seven. Heading into the 70s, Casey started to work quite steadily, starring in movies like Black Gunn, Cleopatra Jones and The Man Who Fell to Earth. But it was the 80s that gave us his most iconic film roles. Casey played the head of the African-American fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds, as well as his memorable turn as a fictional neighborhood hero named John Slade in the blaxploitation movie I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.
Throughout his career, Bernie Casey also had other roles in iconic franchises. He had a role in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and was even part of the James Bond franchise, even if it was in an unofficial capacity. Casey played 007's CIA counterpart Felix Leiter in Sean Connery's Never Say Never Again, which was made as a rival James Bond movie during the Roger Moore era. He also notably starred in In Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha and Harris and Company, which was one of the first TV drama series centered on a black family.
During his long and varied career, Bernie Casey managed to amass more than 80 acting credits across five different decades. In addition to his work as an actor and athletic career, Casey also was an accomplished artist. He had a book of his artwork and poems, Look at the People, published in 1969. RIP, Bernie Casey.