Bubba Smith died last week.
I read the article, looked at the photo, and for the first time in years I remembered that I met him once.
I saw Police Academy in the theater way back when, and of course I remembered Hightower.
Fast forward to 1999. I was living in Santa Monica, trying out a new life in a new place after living in Texas my whole life and quitting my job as a CPA at Ernst & Young.
I worked out at 24 hour fitness club on Ocean Park. One day I was doing some low rows and a big guy next to me asked if that amount of weight hurt my back. I told him that it didn't, that I was so focused on form that it actually felt great on my back. He looked a little familiar.
A few weeks later, after a particularly painful set of tricep pushdowns I turned to walk out of the gym and almost walked into the chest of that same guy. He was big, black and in his 50's. He looked at me and in a deep voice told me "let me show you how that's done". And he did. Very politely. We talked a bit about triceps and back exercises and exercise in general. And we alternated sets on a few other exercises. I thought he looked familiar but didn't know for sure who he was.
I told him I was from Texas. He said he was too, from Beaumont. I told him I went to Texas A&M undergrad. He laughed and said that they wouldn't let him play at Texas or Texas A&M because he was black, so he went to Michigan State. I asked if he played football, he smiled and said yes and let me know that he was a #1 pick. And we talked for a while. Super friendly guy, did not act famous for 1 second. When I finally left, I shook hands with him, thanked him for the workout advice, and introduced myself. He smiled, thanked me and told me his name was Bubba.
Then I realized who he was.
I never saw him again after that.
I'm sad to hear that he passed away!