Bernie Casey, former NFL player who transitioned to a successful career as an artist, actor and poet, died Sept. 19. He was 78.
Known for his roles in "Boxcar Bertha," "Never Say Never Again" and "Revenge of the Nerds," Casey died in Los Angeles due to complications of a stroke, according to The New York Times.
Casey came to Hollywood after a stand-out career as an NFL wide receiver, first for the San Francisco 49ers and later the Los Angeles Rams.
After the 1968 season, Casey decided to retire and focus on art. At 30 years old, he finished his NFL career with 359 catches for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"When that sojourn is over and you're 32 or something, when most people are just beginning to understand who they are, what they can do and what life is all about, you have been considered in the world of sports a dinosaur," Casey once said in an NFL Films piece, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "From that point on, it's a downward spiral into the abyss of non-consideration and obscurity and a lot of other things that they never recover from. I want to think in my instance, it's the beginning. There's a lot of life left after 32."
Drafted by multiple teams, Casey opted to play for the 49ers because he thought being in San Francisco would best suit his artistic dreams, according the The New York Times.
Casey had painted since high school and always considered himself an artist. According to The New York Times, Casey told Life magazine in 1964, "I think of myself as an artist who plays football, not as a ball player who paints."
Immediately after he retired from the NFL, Casey began acting and painting, making his first film appearance in the 1969 movie "Guns of the Magnificent Seven."
His paintings found many fans, including Maya Angelou.
"I cannot see what Bernie Casey sees," Angelou said in 2003, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "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 also published books of his poetry, including "Look at the People" and "Where Is the Revolution...and Other Poems," according to The New York Times.