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Sgt. Hightower helped put Smith among football's best actors

The NFL universe mourns the passing of the legendary Bubba Smith, who had quite a successful career with the Colts, Raiders and Oilers. But for many generations, Smith entertained during his second career as an actor, appearing in Miller Lite commercials and the "Police Academy" series.

Smith was not the first former NFL player to make the leap into acting, and he certainly wasn't the first to play a law enforcement official. In an effort to honor and remember Smith, here is my list of the six greatest.

Considered: Jim Brown. The Hall-of-Fame running back twice played a detective on the William Shatner vehicle "T.J. Hooker". But Brown actually played two different characters, Det. Jim Cody and Det. Frank Barnett.

And without further ado ...

6. Dick Butkus
The Hall-of-Fame linebacker had many roles in film and TV, but he actually starred alongside Smith in the television version of "Blue Thunder", playing Richard "Ski" Butowski. The series only lasted one season. And for trivia, does anybody remember Dana Carvey being in that series? He was.

5. Ed Marinaro
Marinaro was a runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1971 as a running back at Cornell (maybe you're heard of it) and played for the Vikings, Seahawks and Jets before he took a role on "Laverne & Shirley". Marinaro's big break came when he was selected to play officer Joe Coffey on NBC's "Hills Street Blues" in 1981.

4. Brian Bosworth
Bosworth's football career ended much sooner than he anticipated, but he made the big leap to the silver screen playing Joe Huff/John Stone in the motion picture "Stone Cold". Many have derided the performance, but: a.) it's awesome, and: b.) it has commanded a cult following over the years. The Boz also played a prison guard in Adam Sandler's "The Longest Yard" remake.

3. O.J. Simpson
Simpson actually had a promising acting career going before, you know, the whole unpleasantness. Simpson played the bumbling Det. Nordberg in the film trilogy of the "Police Squad" series. His first appearance on a police show was on "Dragnet 1967". His last was on, you know.

2. Bubba Smith
After a number of appearances on "Taxi", "The White Shadow" and "Vega$", Smith got a huge break playing Sgt. Moses Hightower -- the florist turned police recruit -- in the original "Police Academy" movie. In fact, it was Hightower who saved the day during the big riot scene at the end (oops, should have had a spoiler alert). Smith appeared in six "Police Academy" films and even the ill-fated "Police Academy" series.

1. Fred Dryer
Many pegged Dryer for superstardom when he was a defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams. Dryer was first considered for the role of Sam Malone in the hit series "Cheers", ultimately losing out to Ted Danson, but eventually appeared on the show as David Richards. His biggest role came as the wise-cracking Rick Hunter on the hit series "Hunter", co-starring Stepfanie Kramer. The show was believed to be TV's version of the "Dirty Harry" movies. And it was.

Adam Rank once had the hugest crush on Stepfanie Kramer. Talk to him about it on Twitter or Facebook. And be sure to catch the latest Dave Dameshek Football Program.

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