Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed in ‘Rocky’ franchise and former Raiders linebacker, dies at 76

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Carl Weathers, the iconic action star who could always get a laugh or a smile from his audience, died Friday at the age of 76.

Best known for his roles as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies and Chubbs Peterson in “Happy Gilmore,” Weathers was an NFL linebacker with the Oakland Raiders for two seasons before an ankle injury pushed him to the Canadian Football League for two years and then shifted his focus to Hollywood.

Weathers’ family said he “died peacefully in his sleep,” The New York Times reported.

Weathers lit up the screen when he first appeared in “Rocky” in 1976 as the heavyweight champ Creed looking for a challenger who could capture the public’s imagination. He found one in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character, and the two had a chemistry that carried them through three sequels. Weathers gave Creed an imposing physical presence with speed and grace, and his charisma and swagger overshadowed even that.

Creed’s death scene in “Rocky IV” — in an exhibition match! — had kids crying along with the characters in the movie.

Weathers told the Daily Beast in 2016 the character of Creed put him “on the map and makes your career, so to speak. But that’s a one-off, so you’ve got to follow it up with something. Fortunately those movies kept coming, and Apollo Creed became more and more in people’s consciousness and welcome in their lives, and it was just the right guy at the right time.”

In 1996’s “Happy Gilmore,” Weathers played Chubbs Peterson, a former professional golfer who lost his hand in an alligator attack, then became the coach for Adam Sandler’s title character. Weathers also had memorable roles in the movies “Predator” and “Action Jackson,” and the television shows “Arrested Development” — as himself — and “The Mandalorian.”

Weathers was born in New Orleans and graduated high school in Long Beach, Calif. He played college football and majored in drama at San Diego State before playing eight games for the Raiders in 1970 and 1971. He later finished college at San Francisco State during his CFL offseasons and graduated with a degree in drama in 1974.

Weathers is survived by two sons.

Meeting Carl Weathers

Weathers’ most prominent recent role was as the swindler-turned-statesman Greef Karga in three seasons of the Disney+ streaming series “The Mandalorian.”

Because of the popularity of the series and character, Weathers appeared at many fan events this decade, including Star Wars Celebration Europe in April 2023. As an avid Star Wars enthusiast and collector, I randomly had the opportunity to speak with him alone on the convention floor on the event’s final day.

We talked about his thrill of acting and even directing on the series, but also circled back to his time playing Apollo Creed.

I clumsily related a story of my reaction to the scene in 1982’s “Rocky III” in which he and Stallone’s Rocky engage in a head-to-head sprint on the beach by Santa Monica Pier, and how I went home from the theater and did sprints to see how fast I could run.

“I get it, I see what you’re saying,” Weathers said. “I think there were a lot of kids like you.” — Daniel Uthman, senior managing talent development editor

(Photo: Jesse Grant / Getty Images for Disney)

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