COLUMBUS, NE – Former NFL football player turned actor, Brad William Henke, passed away Tuesday, November 29 at the age of 56. The actor, best known for his role as gay corrections officer Desi Piscatella in the Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black,” was confirmed by his manager, Matt DelPiano, to have died in his sleep, although no actual cause of death has been given as of yet.
“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.
Henke – who was born in Columbus, Nebraska, and raised in Littleton, Colorado – played football for the University of Arizona, was drafted by the New York Giants in 1989, and later also played for the Denver Broncos before ankle injuries forced him to retire from the sport in 1994.
However, Henke would go on to discover a new career in acting, initially starting in commercials before transitioning into television and movies, a move he stated in an 1998 interview that he wish he had considered earlier in his life.
“I kind of regret not starting acting sooner,” Henke said. “But I think my life experiences before I found my calling have really helped me. I’m building my career by myself, on my own merits, not for what I did on the football field.”
Henke boasted over 100 acting credits, including roles in television programs such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “The Stand,” “MacGyver,” “ER,” “Chicago Hope,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Nash Bridges,” “The Bridge,” “Justified,” “Shameless,” Sneaky Pete,” “CSI: Miami,” “Dexter,” “Crossing Jordan,” The Office” and “Judging Amy.” In addition, some of his film roles included “The Assassination of Richard Nixon,” “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” “Must Love Dogs,” “The Zodiac,” “North Country,” “World Trade Center,” “Hollywoodland,” and “Black Party.”
Henke leaves behind his wife Sonja, his stepchildren Aaden and Leasa, and grandchild Amirah.