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Police Academy star Bubba Smith dies aged 66

Bubba Smith, famed for his role as gentle giant Moses Hightower in the ’80s comedies, was found dead in his L.A. home on Wednesday.

Born Charles Aaron Smith, the man affectionately known as ‘Bubba’ began his career as an American football player in the NFL in 1967 and played professionally for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers.

When his time as an athlete ended in 1976, he carved himself a new career as an actor. And it was in 1984 that he shot to international stardom with ‘Police Academy’.

His character, Moses Hightower, was a florist before joining the force and became a staple of the series which saw affable crook Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) and a team of misfits including sound-effects specialists Jones (Michael Winslow), incomprehensible Zed (Bobcat Goldthwaite), gun-obsessive Tackleberry (David Graf) and sexy trainee Thompson (a young Kim Cattrall) seek to earn their badges under accident-prone Academy chief, Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes).

Smith reprised his role as the softly-spoken strongman in six of the seven films that graced cinemas over the course of the ’80s, only bowing out for the seventh instalment, ‘Police Academy: Mission to Moscow’, which revisited some of the cops in 1994.

The 6 foot 7 star also appeared in several TV shows, including ‘Half Nelson’ and several smaller film releases, but it is still for his stint in the slapstick cop capers that he is best remembered.

Smith’s body was discovered at his home by a caretaker, and a coroner is investigating the cause of death. However, it is believed he died of natural causes and police are not treating the death as suspicious.