NFL linebacker-turned-action icon Carl Weathers died Thursday. He was 76.
Weathers, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise, died “peacefully” in his sleep, according to a report citing a statement released by his family.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers,” the statement read. “He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024.”
“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life. Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend,” it added.
Born in New Orleans on Jan. 14, 1948, Weathers was an athlete who excelled in football, playing in college for both San Diego University and San Diego State, where he studied theater arts.
He helped the Aztecs win the Pasadena Bowl before he entered the NFL and signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent in 1970.
Weathers played in eight games with the Raiders as a linebacker, then joined the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League before retiring from football in 1974.
His acting career began while he was playing football, but his breakout role came from his role as world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky movies.
“It puts you on the map and makes your career, so to speak. But that’s a one-off, so you’ve got to follow it up with something,” Weathers said of his role as Creed in a 2016 interview.
“Fortunately those movies kept coming, and Apollo Creed became more and more in people’s consciousness and welcome in their lives, and it was just the right guy at the right time,” he said.
After starring as Creed, Weathers was featured in a number of 1980s action films, including Force 10 from Navarone, Predator, Action Jackson, and Hurricane Smith.
“Predator, the handshake. That’s iconic,” Weathers said. “The director shot that scene beautifully. And it’s a great movie. You put that movie in the theater today and it works just as well as it did back in 1987.”
In 1996, he portrayed the iconic Derick “Chubbs” Peterson in the golf comedy classic Happy Gilmore alongside Adam Sandler.
Sandler took to social media following the announcement of the actor’s death, posting a tribute to Instagram.
“A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell,” Sandler wrote. “Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!! Everyone loved him. My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him. Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend.”
In total, Weathers has dozens of films and TV credits, and younger audiences likely know him from his role as Combat Carl in 2019’s Toy Story 4 or his recurring role as Greef Karga in The Mandalorian.
Looking back on his career in a 2023 interview, Weathers declared himself a “lucky guy.”
“There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I’ve been able to walk and find success as a result. And hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well,” he said.
“I guess I’m just a lucky guy.”