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Bubba Smith died of drug intoxication, coroner says

November 2, 2011 |  9:26 am

Bubba Smith
Los Angeles County Coroner's officials announced Wednesday that former all-pro football player turned actor and commercial pitchman Bubba Smith died of acute drug intoxication and other conditions.

The autopsy found that Smith, 66, whose body was discovered Aug. 3 by a caretaker at his Baldwin Hills home, was found to have phentermine, a weight-loss drug, in his system. Coroner's officials said he also had heart disease and high-blood pressure.

The 66-year-old actor's heart was abnormally large — nearly twice the weight of a normal heart — and some vessels were blocked as much as 75%, according to the report.

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 his high school football coach.

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

The 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end 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 appear 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.

In one of the most memorable ads, Smith recited the virtues of the beer, beaming into the camera, "I also love the easy-opening cans," while ripping off the top of the can.

But Smith would walk away from the job because he didn't like the effect drinking had on people and that he was contributing to it.

Instead, he transitioned to acting in movies and TV, notably 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."

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

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Bubba Smith, right, plays Moses Hightower in a "Police Academy" film. Credit: Warner Bros.

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