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July 25, 2012

Ben Davidson, Football Star Turned Prolific Actor

Michael Levin

Ben Davidson, a star defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders who went on to become an actor in film and television, died July 2, 2012, in San Diego. He was 72.

According to news reports, the cause was prostate cancer.

The Los Angeles native did not play football until his freshman at East Los Angeles College, but he proved to be a standout on the field and transferred to the University of Washington, where helped the team win two Rose Bowls. He began his professional football career with the Green Bay Packers and went on to play for the Washington Redskins before settling in Oakland, where he played for the remainder of his career.

As a Raider, he played for renowned coach John Madden in the 1960s, when the team earned a reputation for its aggressive style and intimidation of quarterbacks and offensive lines.

He made the Pro Bowl three years and was named First Team All-Pro in 1967.

After his football career ended, Davidson, with his imposing six-foot-eight height and handlebar moustache, found regular work as an actor.

He began with a small role in the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, as a football player who spits water on Gary Burghoff’s Radar O’Reilly at halftime. This led to roles on numerous television series, including Banacek, Police Woman, Happy Days, Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels and many others.

His widest fame may have come from his appearances in 27 commercials for Miller Lite beer. He traveled on promotional trips for corporate outings for years after his playing days were over.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters.

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