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A Man of Many Talents: Carl Weathers (1948-2024) | Tributes

February 4, 2024 - Movies

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When his family moved to California, he enrolled at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where his gridiron prowess took him to Long Beach City College. Injured there during practice, he transferred to San Diego State, where he played on nationally recognized teams for Coach Don Coryell. He also majored in Theatre.

After contacting his former college linebacking coach Sid Hall, expressing an interest in playing professionally, Weathers signed as a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders (who had hired Hall as their linebackers coach) as a free agent in 1970. He played that season, and was released by the team early in the 1971 campaign. Raider head coach John Madden briefed Weathers when he cut him, “You’re too sensitive.” 

Undaunted, as when he moved to California, then changed colleges, then signed undrafted by a pro team, Weathers continued his career with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. In the off seasons, until his 1974 retirement from athletics, he studied acting. 

In 1975, he earned speaking roles in the blaxploitation films “Bucktown,” and “Friday Foster,” the latter starring Pam Grier. The same year, he guested on an episode of the sitcom “Good Times,” as well as on the dramas “Cannon,” and “Kung Fu”. The next TV season, Weathers earned parts on both “Barnaby Jones” and “Starsky and Hutch,” both detective series. He also auditioned for the role of Creed, and was cast as Rocky’s braggadocious foe. 

Weathers called on the antics of heavyweight king Muhammad Ali (who was born Cassius Clay, thus the Greco-Roman appellation Apollo) in his performances as Creed, flavoring the caricature with his own blend of menace and comedic timing. The stark contrast with the unlikely heroics of journeyman boxer Rocky Balboa, lent the rivalry its David vs. Goliath tone. Weathers also co-starred in “Rocky II,” “Rocky III,” and “Rocky IV”. As much as they cheered for everyman Rocky, film fans grew to love his colorful adversary. In the 1970s and 1980s, Weathers also appeared in “Force 10 from Navarone,” briefly in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and memorably in the action hit “Predator”. He was the lead in “Action Jackson” in 1988. It is a tribute to his versatility that he was not type cast or limited to the larger-than-life Creed. 

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