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Bernie Casey, Who Glided From Football to Hollywood, Dies at 78 – New York Times

“I think the real Bernie Casey is coming through,” he told Life. “There are all sorts of signs. Just the other day, I was walking through a gallery and a man walked up and said, ‘Are you Bernard Casey, the artist?’ ”

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Mr. Casey (30) catching a touchdown pass for the San Francisco 49ers in a loss to the Detroit Lions in 1964.

Credit
Associated Press

Mr. Casey balanced painting abstract oils and fantasy landscapes with acting once he stopped playing football. He retired after the 1968 season, three years after Jim Brown, the N.F.L.’s biggest star, abrupty ended his career with the Cleveland Browns and began to act. One of Mr. Casey’s first roles was in “tick … tick … tick …,” a 1970 thriller with Mr. Brown.

He went on to play J. C. Caroline, a Chicago Bears teammate of the dying Brian Piccolo, in the televison movie “Brian’s Song” (1971); a C.I.A. agent working with Sean Connery in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” (1983); and an aging action hero in “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” (1989), a parody of the blaxploitation genre that reunited him with Mr. Brown.

Mr. Casey also appeared in three of the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies, a series of comedies about collegiate misfits fighting a jock fraternity. He played U. N. Jefferson, president of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity.

In 1973, he portrayed the paralyzed former National Basketball Association player Maurice Stokes in the film “Maurie.” Writing in The New York Times, the columnist Dave Anderson praised Mr. Casey for capturing the agonizing effort required by Mr. Stokes to lift a spoon and recalled a conversation he had with Mr. Casey late in his football career.

“Just because I’m a football player,” he told Mr. Anderson, “doesn’t mean I can’t be something else at the same time. Most of us live on a small portion of our capacity. I don’t want to let the limitation of others limit me.”

Bernard Terry Casey was born on Sept. 8, 1939, in Wyco, W. Va. His father, Frank, was a coal miner. His mother was the former Flossie Coleman.

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Mr. Casey in 1983 as the C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again.”

Credit
Warner Brothers, via Photofest

In addition to playing on the Bowling Green football team, which was voted the small college champion in 1959, Mr. Casey competed in the high hurdles and finished sixth in the 1960 Olympic trials, short of making the team. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of fine arts from Bowling Green.

He was drafted by the 49ers, the New York Titans (who became the Jets) of the American Football League and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He chose the 49ers because, he said, San Francisco would advance his artistic dreams. He was traded in 1967 to the Atlanta Falcons, which quickly sent him to the Rams.

Collectors of his paintings have included Sidney Poitier, Burt Reynolds and Maya Angelou, according to the Thelma Harris Art Gallery in Oakland, which had a major show of Mr. Casey’s paintings in 2003.

Mr. Casey also published a few books of poetry, including “Look at the People” (1969) and “Where Is the Revolution … and Other Poems” (1973).

He is survived by his sister, Frankie Murray. His marriage to Paula Campbell ended in divorce. They had no children.

In 1997, Mr. Casey directed, wrote and produced the movie “The Dinner,” which featured three African-American men talking about slavery, white superiority, black crime and other racial subjects around a dinner table. It was a departure from the action films and comedies he was known for. But it was close to his heart and based on conversations with his friends. None of the characters had names; they were Good Brother (Mr. Casey), Young Brother (Wren Brown) and Brother Man (Doug Johnson).

“Most people don’t know us, as African-Americans,” Mr. Casey said at the time, “even those of us who are greatly celebrated. We are so expendable, we have no history in the context of the nation.”

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