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Actor Bernie Casey dies at 78

Football star turned actor Bernie Casey died Tuesday in Los Angeles, following a brief illness, his representative told The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday. He was 78.

Known for roles in Boxcar Bertha, Never Say Never Again, Revenge of the Nerds, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Casey was also a poet, writer, director, and painter whose work appeared in art galleries around the world. Born in 1939 in West Virginia, Casey was raised in Ohio and went to Bowling Green on a football scholarship; later in life, he returned to the school and earned a master's in fine arts. He excelled on the football team, and went on to spend nearly 10 seasons with the NFL, starting with the San Francisco 49ers, then unexpectedly retiring as a member of the L.A. Rams while he was still in his prime. Casey said he retired in order to devote more time to acting, painting, and poetry.

In addition to his film roles, Casey also appeared in several television programs and made-for-TV movies. A champion of the arts, he received an honorary doctorate from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he served as chairman of the board for many years, and fans of his painting included Maya Angelou. In 2003, the famed poet said Casey "has the heart and the art to put his insight on canvas, and I am heartened by his action. For then I can comprehend his vision and some of my own. His art makes my road less rocky, and my path less crooked."