Bernie Casey, a well-rounded athlete and acclaimed artist, passed away at the age of 78. Casey was a longtime athlete, poet, painter, director, and actor.
Casey was born in 1939 in Wyco, West Virginia. An athlete throughout his younger years, the track and football star attended Bowling Green State University on an athletic scholarship.
According to NBC, the 6’4” halfback and flanker led the school to the national “small college” championship for football in 1959. Meanwhile, he excelled at track and field as well. Casey went on to compete in the high hurdles in the 1960 U.S. Olympic Trials.
After school, Casey became the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft for the San Fransico 49ers, where he played for six seasons as a wide receiver. After, he completed two seasons with the Rams. His pro career included 359 catches for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns.
In a surprising turn, Casey announced that he was retiring from athletics. He wanted to pursue his lifelong passion: art.
He once said, "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. 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."
Casey began appearing in movies such as “Guns of the Magnificent Seven,” “Hit Man,” and “Cleopatra Jones.” His acting extended to TV as well, and his career lasted for decades. While acting became his main source of income, he still focused on painting and poetry. He went on to receive a masters of fine arts, followed by an honorary doctorate degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Maya Angelou was among Casey’s fans, particularly of his paintings.
She said, “I cannot see what Bernie Casey sees. 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.”
Sadly, the renowned artist and athlete died in Los Angeles after what was reported as a “brief illness.” His talent agent Erin Conner announced his passing on Wednesday.
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