Charles Aaron "Bubba" Smith (February 28, 1945 – August 3, 2011) was an American professional football player, who starred as a defensive end in both college and the NFL before becoming an actor following his retirement from the sport.
During his acting career, Smith specialized in comedic roles in film, television, and television advertising. For about a decade following his retirement from football, he appeared in various commercials for Miller Lite. His best-known role was as Moses Hightower in the first six Police Academy movies.
The situation at UT motivated Smith to become a much better player at Michigan State University, where he was an All-American in both 1965 and 1966. He was a popular athlete at Michigan State, earning the arresting fan chant of "Kill, Bubba, Kill."
His final game at Michigan State was a 10–10 tie with Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium on November 19, 1966. With both teams undefeated, untied and ranked atop the national polls going in (The Fighting Irish were ranked #1 at 8–0–0, the Spartans #2 at 9–0–0), the match-up was hyped as the college "Game of the Century". Early in the first quarter, Smith tackled Notre Dame starting quarterbackTerry Hanratty, who suffered a separated left shoulder. Hanratty was replaced for the remainder of the game by Coley O'Brien. Smith, who admitted that Hanratty's injury actually backfired on the Spartans, stated, "That didn't help us any. It just let them put in that O'Brien who's slippery and faster and gave us more trouble. The other guy just sits there and waits, and that's what we wanted." Michigan State finished second behind Notre Dame in the final voting for the national championship.
In 1988, Smith was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Michigan State retired his number 95 jersey on September 23, 2006, prior to the Spartans' home game against Notre Dame, amid repeated cheers of his old slogan from the student section. This game also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the "Game of the Century."
Smith spent nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive end and played in the Super Bowl twice in his first five seasons. The heavily-favored Colts lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets and won Super Bowl V two years later following the 1970 season. It was Smith's only Super Bowl ring. However, in interviews, Smith stated that he would never wear the ring, out of a sense of disappointment that he and his teammates were unable to win Super Bowl III. He was injured in the 1972 preseason when he ran into a solid steel pole the NFL was using at the time to mark yardage and missed the season. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders after the 1972 season, and finished his career with the Houston Oilers. He was selected All-Pro one year, All-Conference two years, and went to two Pro Bowls. His legacy is the inspiration behind the documentary, Through the Banks of the Red Cedar, written and directed by MSU teammate Gene Washington's daughter, Maya Washington.
After retiring from professional football, Smith began acting in small movie and television roles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is perhaps best known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movie series, a role he reprised in all but one of the Police Academy sequels. He also played as the pit crew jack man in the movie Stroker Ace starring Burt Reynolds.
In 1983, Smith published the autobiography entitled Kill, Bubba, Kill, in which he stated he felt it was possible Super Bowl III had been rigged to enable the Jets to win in order to ensure the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger proceeded smoothly.
Smith was found dead in his Los Angeles home by his caretaker on August 3, 2011. He died from acute drug intoxication and heart disease. Phentermine, a weight-loss drug, was found in his system. His heart weighed more than twice that of an average similar male. He was 66 years old.
On May 24, 2016, it was announced that Smith had suffered from the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative illness afflicting unknown numbers of former athletes in contact sports. The findings were confirmed by researchers affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and released with the permission of the executor of Smith's estate.
Smith is the 90th former NFL player found to have had CTE by the researchers at the Boston University brain bank; they have examined 94 former pro players. According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, On a scale of 1 to 4 used by the neuropathologist who examined Smith's brain, Smith had Stage 3 CTE, with symptoms including cognitive impairment and problems with judgment and planning.