Brad William Henke arrives at the 24th annual SAG Awards in Los Angeles in January 2018. His family announced the death of the NFL player-turned-actor this week. He was 56. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- NFL player turned actor Brad William Henke has died, his family announced. He was 56. Henke was best known for his work on Orange is the New Black, appearing in more than two dozen episodes, per Deadline.
He played Desi Piscatella, a gay corrections officer, from 2016-18, earning a Screen Actors Guild Award with the cast for Outstanding Performance by a Comedy Ensemble in 2017.
Henke's agent, Sheree Cohen, confirmed to E! News that the actor died in his sleep on Nov. 29. Henke was born on April 10, 1966, in Columbus, Neb., but grew up in Littleton, Colo.
After playing college football at the University of Arizona, Henke played for the Denver Broncos, appearing in Super Bowl XXIV. Injuries shortened his career and he retired in 1994. He moved to Los Angeles where a chance opportunity opened up a new career.
"I tried to be a football coach and honestly, it was a tough couple of years," he told Horror Geek Life in 2021. "I didn't know what to do with my life. Luckily, I needed money, so I jumped at being an extra football player in a commercial; they needed football extras in the back of the commercial. After that, someone invited me to an acting class, saw what they were doing there, started going to class, and I just loved it."
In September of 2021, Henke posted a video from a hospital bed revealing that he'd had a "90% blockage of his artery" which was discovered only when he went in for an annual physical.
"The rest of my time on this planet is a gift and I'm happy to be able to take advantage of it," Henke said then.
"Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy," Henke's manager, Matt DelPiano, said in a statement he provided to E! News. "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."
Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed
alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo