Celebrating 76 Years of NFL Linebacker-Turned-Actor Carl Weathers, Boxing’s Apollo Creed

Published 02/03/2024, 4:18 PM EST

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The world of entertainment and sports mourns the loss of a true legend. Charismatic Carl Weathers, renowned for his iconic portrayal of the character of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” series, has passed at the age of 76.

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His family, in a statement, described him as an “exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life.” Today, in the wake of his passing, his contributions to film, television, and sports remain poignant.  The incredible journey of the late Carl Weathers—from his early days as an NFL linebacker to becoming a Hollywood icon, and the impact of his character Apollo Creed on the world of boxing—through it all, he remained a star with a compelling story to tell.

Formative days in the NFL

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Born in New Orleans in 1948, Weathers’ journey to notoriety began on the football field. At school, he participated in the Glee Club and football. At San Diego State University, he studied theatre arts and played a variety of sports including boxing, football, soccer, wrestling, and gymnastics. At San Diego State, he became a letterman for the Aztecs and contributed to their success, including a victory in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl. Soon after college, his athleticism as a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders peaked after he became a free agent in 1970. He went on to play in eight NFL games across two seasons. However, soon after, a passion for acting was born in him.

Weathers once remarked about his unique career trajectory: “I guess I’m just a lucky guy.” It is the essence of a man who seamlessly transitioned from the gridiron to the silver screen, embodying the spirit of versatility and determination.

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A move to the big screens

Weathers’ acting career spanned over 50 years. He played roles in more than 75 films and TV shows. His career on the screen was a testament to his versatility and talent. From nail-biting appearances in classics like “Predator” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger to his comedic turn in Adam Sandler’s “Happy Gilmore,” Weathers left an enduring impact on the world of entertainment.

In the beginning, he landed small roles in Arthur Marks movies like “Bucktown” and “Friday Foster” and TV series like “Good Times,” “Kung Fu,” “Cannon” and “Starsky and Hutch.” “However, a pivotal title that cemented his place in the fabric of fame included the renowned ‘Rocky’ series. Sylvester Stallone, his co-star and the leading man in the “Rocky” series, paid a heartfelt tribute, stating, “I’m just trying to hold it in because Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success, everything about it.” Weathers’ ability to seamlessly transition between action and comedy outlined his range as an actor.

Adam Sandler remembered Weathers as “the true legend,” and a “great athlete.” He shared, “A true great man. Great dad. Great actor… So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!! Everyone loved him.”

In the advanced stages of his career, Weathers landed smaller roles in shows and directed several episodes. His first Emmy nomination came in 2021 for the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” He portrayed the character Greef Karga in a total of nine episodes across the three seasons.

Imprints on the world of boxing

The character of Apollo Creed, supposedly inspired by the great Muhammad Ali, was immortalized by Weathers in the “Rocky” series. The role and its influence on the boxing community today stand as a testament to his contribution to the world of boxing in cinematic history. The unapologetic bashfulness of his character inspired and continues to inspire scores of hungry young boxers with a dream to make it big like Apollo Creed. From his titillating rivalry with Rocky Balboa to becoming a trusted friend and trainer, Creed’s journey in the iconic series also mirrors the camaraderie fighters often share in the sport.

Apollo Creed’s star-spangled entrance in “Rocky IV” still remains iconic. It symbolized the theatricality and patriotic fervor of Americans during the late Cold War era. However, the popularity of the role came with its challenges. In an interview last year, he acknowledged the difficulty of breaking away from the character, stating, “There is no Carl Weathers.” But Weathers still continued to captivate audiences with his charisma and talent.

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Watch This Story: Sylvester Stallone’s Earnings From ‘Rocky’ & ‘Creed’ Movies

His legacy today extends far beyond Apollo Creed. It reflects not only his graceful embrace of diverse fields but also the striking mark he left on the hearts of those who knew him and worked with him. Through the characters he brought to life, the friendships he forged, and the inspiration he provided to aspiring artists and sportsmen, his impact remains enduring. In the words of Adam Sandler, “Love to his entire family, and Carl will always be known as a true legend.”

He did what he wished he could. He once said, “There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I’ve been able to walk and find success as a result. And hopefully, I can inspire someone else to do good work as well.”

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Farewell Apollo Creed and thank you for inspiring us.

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Written by:

Mohammed Shafiulla

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One take at a time

As Manny Pacquiao once said, “Boxing is not about your feelings. It’s about performance.” Through my writing, I hope to bring this performance closer to boxing fans.
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Edited by:

Gokul Pillai

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