Former Two-Time All-American “Bubba” Smith Passes Away At Age 66

Michigan State

On Sept. 23, 2006, Smith became just the third player in MSU football history to have his jersey number (No. 95) retired.  Photo courtesy of MSU athletic communication.
On Sept. 23, 2006, Smith became just the third player in MSU football history to have his jersey number (No. 95) retired. Photo courtesy of MSU athletic communication.


EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State two-time All-American Charles “Bubba” Smith, one of only three players in Spartan football history to have his jersey number (No. 95) retired, died Wednesday, Aug. 3, at his home in Los Angeles, Calif. He was 66.

Born Feb. 28, 1945, in Orange, Texas, Smith earned three letters at Michigan State from 1964-66, while playing for legendary head coach Duffy Daugherty. In his final two seasons, the 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end helped the Spartans to a combined record of 19-1-1, including back-to-back Big Ten and National Championships in 1965 and ’66.

As a junior, he emerged as one of the top playmakers on a defensive unit that led the NCAA in rushing defense (45.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.2 points per game), earning First-Team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association and United Press International. Michigan State held three of its 1965 opponents to negative rushing yards: Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

As a senior, Smith was named First-Team All-American by nine different organizations, including The Associated Press, UPI, Football Writers Association of America, AFCA, Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Sporting News, Central Press, Football News and New York News. In addition, he was selected UPI Lineman of the Year in 1966. Despite being regularly double- or triple-teamed or having opponents run away from his side of the field, Smith still produced 30 tackles (15 solos, 15 assists), including 10 for losses (59 yards). Michigan State ranked third in the NCAA in rushing defense in’66, allowing just 51.4 yards per game.

Smith became the first selection overall in the 1967 National Football League Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He spent nine years in the NFL, including five seasons in Baltimore (1967-71), two in Oakland (1973-74) and two more in Houston (1975-76). Smith was a member of the 1970 Colts team that defeated Dallas, 16-13, in Super Bowl V (Jan. 17, 1971). He made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 1970-71 and was named First-Team All-Pro by AP and Pro Football Writers in 1971.

In 1988, the Beaumont, Texas, native was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Smith became a member of the inaugural class inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2006, he was rated among the Top 10 Greatest Defensive Players of All-Time, according to lists compiled by's Pete Fiutak (No. 6) and Richard Cirminiello (No. 8). On Sept. 23, 2006, Smith became just the third player in MSU football history to have his jersey number retired. His jersey retirement was part of a special program to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1966 “Game of the Century” between the second-ranked Spartans and top-ranked Notre Dame that ended in a 10-10 tie. At the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Big Ten will present the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year Award as selected by the league’s head coaches and media panel, honoring MSU’s two-time All-American as well as Penn State’s Courtney Brown.

Remembering Charles “Bubba” Smith . . .

Former teammate Robert Viney (defensive end, 1963-65):

“I’m brokenhearted. I just spoke with ‘Bubba’ by phone on Monday. He had invited some old veterans from the Raiders and Rams over to his house to review the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement.

“He was simply a good guy. His size made him an intimidating figure, but he was a real gentleman. He was a helluva player.

“I will shed some tears tonight because I’ve lost a great friend. He never sought the spotlight. He was a humble man. As I remember him, I recall the chants of “Kill, Bubba, Kill” from the crowd in Spartan Stadium. He will be missed.”

Michigan State Athletics Director Mark Hollis:

“‘Bubba’ Smith was a great Spartan. Years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with him when he served as the grand marshal for the Homecoming parade and again when he returned to campus for the retirement of his jersey number, and he had a great presence wherever he want. Despite his stature and notoriety, you felt comfortable around him because he had an engaging personality. As both a football player and later as an actor, ‘Bubba’ was a great ambassador for the University. It’s only fitting that beginning this fall the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Award bears his name.”

Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio:

“Charles ‘Bubba’ Smith was a larger-than-life figure. A two-time All-American, he’s arguably the greatest defensive end to ever play the college game. He certainly ranks as one of Michigan State’s all-time greats. He loved his experiences here and always enjoyed his return trips to campus. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of his former teammates.”