Bernie Casey in 2014. (Ryan Miller/Ryan Miller/Invision/AP)

Bernie Casey, an actor who appeared in such films as “Boxcar Bertha,” “Never Say Never Again” and “Revenge of the Nerds” after a stellar career as a wide receiver in the National Football League, died Sept. 19 at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 78.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Erin Connor. He reportedly had a stroke.

Mr. Casey played six years with the San Francisco 49ers, beginning in 1961, and two years with the Los Angeles Rams before retiring from professional football. He had five seasons of at least 50 receptions and was a Pro Bowl player in 1967.

But for the multitalented Mr. Casey, his interest in the arts always came before football. He retired after the 1968 NFL season to concentrate on acting, writing and painting.

“It was just a gig,” he told The Washington Post in 1977 about his football career. “But it limits the way people perceive you. That can be frustrating. People have tremendous combinations of talents. A man can be a deep-sea diver and also make china.”

As an actor, Mr. Casey began his career in action films, including “...tick...tick...tick…” and “Black Gunn,” both with another former NFL star, Jim Brown. He also appeared in several television series and the made-for-TV football movie “Brian’s Song” (1971). He had something of a breakthrough in “Boxcar Bertha” (1972), directed by Martin Scorsese, playing a heroic train robber.

In 1973, he starred in the film “Maurie,” portraying NBA basketball star Maurice Stokes, who was paralyzed after striking his head on the floor during a game.

He also appeared in the 1976 Nicolas Roeg film “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie, and in the 1979 TV miniseries “Roots: The Next Generations.”

Mr. Casey starred in “Harris and Company,” a short-lived 1979 TV drama in which he played a widowed father of five. In 1983, he played opposite Sean Connery in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again,” portraying CIA official Felix Leiter.

Mr. Casey had a knack for appearing in cult-favorite movies, including “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984), Keenen Ivory Wayans’s 1988 blaxploitation parody “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989), in which he played a schoolteacher.

“Who was Joan of Arc?” he asks.

“Noah’s wife?” replies Ted, played by Keanu Reeves.

He also had a number of television credits including “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “L.A. Law.”

Bernard Terry Casey was born June 8, 1939, in Wyco, W.Va., and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio on an athletic scholarship and helped lead his football team to the “small college” national championship in 1959.

The 6-foot-4 Mr. Casey was also a standout hurdler in track, finishing sixth in the Olympic trials in 1960. He graduated from Bowling Green in 1961 and later received a master of fine arts degree from the university and was named to its athletic hall of fame.

He was the ninth overall pick in the 1961 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers and finished his pro football career with 359 receptions for 5,444 yards and 40 touchdowns.

His marriage to Paula Casey ended in divorce.

In addition to his Hollywood career, Mr. Casey was chairman of the board of trustees of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and participated in international cultural exchanges. He published several volumes of poetry, and his paintings were exhibited in galleries.