Obit of the Day: From “Kill Bubba Kill” to “Tastes Great! Less Filling!”
Bubba Smith had a tremendous football career. As one of the greatest players in the history of Michigan State University, Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988. After college he was the number one overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft, selected by the Baltimore Colts. He played five seasons with Baltimore losing one Super Bowl (III) and winning another (VII). He was named to two Pro Bowls and selected once as an All-Pro. After five seasons with the Colts, he played one season with the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). His full NFL stats can be found here.
After a leg injury ended his career Smith tried something different: acting. And for an entire generation of fans Smith lost his identity as a ruthless defensive end. His first break came as a pitchman for Miller Lite. As one of numerous athletes recruited for the “Tastes great! Less filling!” campaign, he and Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Dick Butkus became two of the most successful light beer salesmen in the U.S. The commercials not only played up the toughness of Smith and Butkus but showed a humorous side as well. (The closest comparison is the “This is Sportscenter.” campaign.) Click here to see a commercial.
Smith, who ironically doesn’t drink, stopped doing the spots in 1985 after attending a Michigan State Homecoming game and finding that younger fans no longer chanted “Kill, Bubba, kill!” but “Tastes great! Less filling!” Which, when added to the drunken state of the fans made him reconsider his line of work. He decided to focus on television and film.
He had already had a hit as the part of the florist-turned-police cadet in Police Academy a year earlier. For the next several years, he would make four more Academy movies, have recurring roles on shows like Blue Thunder, and guest star on Married With Children and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. He even co-starred with Butkus and Academy Award-winner Joe Pesci in a detective show called Half Nelson, which ran for six episodes in 1985. His full filmography is here.
Mr. Smith was 66.
(Image copyright MillerCoors courtesy of www.arhenetwork.com)