'Revenge Of The Nerds' Star Bernie Casey Dies At 78 (Photos)

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'Revenge Of The Nerds' Star Bernie Casey Dies At 78 (Photos) Promo Image

"Revenge of the Nerds" star and former NFL receiver Bernie Casey died at 78 years old.

His representative told The Hollywood Reporter that he died following a brief illness in Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 

Casey was born June 8, 1939, in a small town in West Virginia. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and eventually attended Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship.

He led his team to the national "small college" championship in 1959. The following year, he was the San Francisco 49ers' ninth pick in the NFL draft.

He played six seasons with the 49ers. Quarterback John Brodie called him his favorite receiver. Casey then played two seasons with the Rams but decided to retire early, ending his career with 359 catches for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns.

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Casey decided to focus his efforts on the arts -- particularly acting, poetry, and theater.  

He made his acting debut in "Guns of the Magnificent Seven" in 1969. He got his first lead role in 1972 for the movie "Hit Man," where he played a no-nonsense detective tasked with finding who killed his brother.

He is best known for his role as Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity president U.N. Jefferson in the 1984 movie "Revenge of the Nerds," according to The New York Times. Casey also made a career starring in Blaxploitation (black exploitation) parodies and is also well-known for playing John in Slade Keenan Ivory Wayans' 1988 film, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka."

Beyond acting, Casey was also an accomplished painter and poet. 

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He eventually received his honorary doctorate degree from The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where he served as chairman of the board, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Casey's work was reportedly well received and garnered top praise from poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

"I cannot see what Bernie Casey sees," she said in 2003 to promote one of Casey's exhibits. "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." 

Casey's dedication to the arts was always his first priority, and he later expressed frustration that people still only associated him with football. 

"[Football] was just a gig," he said in a 1977 interview, according to The Times. "But it limits the way people perceive you. That can be frustrating. People have tremendous combinations of talents. A man can be a deep-sea diver and also make china."

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Twitter (2)

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