Former NFL Player and Longtime Actor Dies Suddenly at Age 56

Brad William Henke, known for his brief time in the NFL and later acting career, passed away suddenly on Tuesday. He was 56 years old.

Henke’s family said that he died in his sleep, but the cause of his death has not been revealed, Deadline reported.

The actor’s manager, Matt DelPiano, also confirmed Henke’s death, according to the New York Post.

“Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy. A very talented actor, he loved being a part of this community … and we loved him back. Our thoughts are with his wife and family,” DelPiano said in a statement.

Originally from Nebraska and raised in Colorado, Henke played college football at the University of Arizona and then got drafted in 1989 by the New York Giants.

Henke, a defensive lineman, was cut from the Giants during training camp but wound up in Denver with the Broncos, People reported. He was part of Denver’s 1990 Super Bowl XXIV team.

In 1994, Henke retired from football after struggling with ankle injuries. He then moved to Los Angeles.

At first, the former pro coached college football. He even tried his hand at substitute teaching and jewelry sales, according to Looper.

But then Henke met Rod Martin, a former NFL player who set him on a new career path, the Tuscon Citizen reported in 1998.

“Rod mentioned there was a need for actors to play football players for commercials, so I tried out for it and got one for Pizza Hut. While I was there, a guy invited me to attend an acting class. I went and it hit me that this is what I wanted to do,” Henke told the Citizen.

Henke went on to have a successful career in television, appearing in shows like “ER,” “Dexter,” “Lost,” “Castle,” “The Office,” “MacGyver,” “Criminal Minds” and many others.

“I’m fortunate I’ve found something I love to do a million times more than playing football. I was kind of lost for a while after my football career ended, and I’m so glad I found this. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with the best of my life already behind me,” Henke told the Citizen in 1998.

Henke also appeared in various movies, including “Space Jam,” “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” “World Trade Center” and “Pacific Rim.”

More recently, Henke was probably best known for his role as the prison guard Desi Piscatella in the popular show “Orange Is the New Black.” He appeared in many episodes of the show and even shared a Screen Actors Guild Award given to the cast in 2017.

Before his sudden death, Henke had accrued nearly 100 acting credits.

He is survived by his mother, wife, stepson, stepdaughter and grandchild, Deadline reported.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.