Bernie Casey, former NFL pro bowler and iconic actor, has died at the age of 78.
Bernie Casey was an all-star NFL receiver in the 1960s and one of the first renaissance men in the league.
Casey, an accomplished all-around athlete, finished sixth in the 110-meter hurdles during the 1960 U.S. Olympic trials. As a 6-foot-4 receiver he was a matchup nightmare for NFL defensive backs. Enticed by Casey’s raw talent, the San Francisco 49ers made him the ninth overall pick in the 1961 NFL draft.
Decades ahead of his time in regards to taking control of his career as an NFL player, the 49ers traded Casey to Atlanta in 1967. However, he refused to go to the Falcons. Casey knew he wanted to explore acting and advised the Falcons they’d have to trade him to the Los Angeles Rams immediately. The Falcons, knowing Casey was serious, gave him his wish.
During his eight-year NFL career, Casey finished as a top-10 receiver four times. His best year was in 1967 with the Rams, in route to being a Pro Bowl selection. He also scored the game-winning touchdown in the closing minute of a critical late-season victory over the Green Bay Packers, helping the Rams reach the playoffs.
Casey announced his retirement from the NFL in 1969 at 29-years-of-age, stating he had other things he wanted to accomplish with his life. By that time, he had already written and starred in multiple one-man plays, and made plans to paint and have a book of poetry published. During a 1977 New York Times interview, Casey was asked if he had any thoughts on football, Casey responded, “Actually, I’m working on a volume of love poetry now.”
Known for his roles in cult classic movies such as I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, Brian’s Song, and Revenge of the Nerds, he earned a ton of respect in the industry. Casey’s first film role was in Guns of the Magnificent Seven, the sequel to the classic film The Magnificent Seven. He also suited up as a football player once more in an appearance in Brian’s Song. Casey would later have roles In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the James Bond classic Never Say Never Again.