Bubba Smith autopsy decision expected Thursday
Bubba Smith, who came to be known for his role in the "Police Academy" films, was found dead this week. The L.A. County coroner’s office is likely to decide Thursday whether to perform an autopsy on the pro football player turned actor.
Smith was found dead at his Baldwin Hills home. No cause of death has been determined and there were no initial indications of foul play. Smith was 66.
“That will be up to the doctor, the pathologist, to decide,” S. Dixson, a coroner's investigator, said Thursday. Dixson said a decision on an autopsy would probably be made by late Thursday afternoon.
A caretaker found Smith dead at his home Wednesday afternoon, police said.
A 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end, Smith was the No. 1 NFL draft pick from Michigan State University 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 also was 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.
Despite a lucrative contract and widespread popularity, Smith, who didn’t drink, walked away from the job out of concerns that the spots were contributing to alcohol consumption.
He turned to acting in movies and TV, playing Moses Hightower in six "Police Academy" movies. He also appeared in a number of TV series, including "Half-Nelson," "Blue Thunder" and "Good Times."
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.
-- Claire Noland and Howard Blume
Photo: In September 2006, Bubba Smith was honored at his alma mater, Michigan State, when his jersey number was retired. Credit: John Gwillim / Associated Press