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NFL pro turned actor Brad William Henke dead at 56

Henke had dozens of on-screen credits, but is arguably most well-known as a major antagonist on "Orange is the New Black."

WASHINGTON — Former NFL player and TV actor Brad William Henke died Tuesday, his agent has confirmed to multiple media outlets. He was 56. 

Henke died "peacefully in his sleep," his agent, Sheree Cohen, told E! News.

No cause of death was provided for Henke. 

Born in Nebraska, Henke played football for the University of Arizona before being signed with the Giants and subsequently cut by the team. He was then signed with the Denver Broncos in 1989 as a defensive end. 

He played in the 1990 Super Bowl, but retired from the NFL in 1994 because of injuries. 

After leaving professional football, Henke found a new career on screen, appearing in dramas such as "Lost," "Dexter," "ER," "Justified," "October Road" and "Law & Order." 

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His best-known role was as Corrections Officer Desi Piscatella on the Netflix original series "Orange Is the New Black." He starred as the main antagonist for seasons four and five of the drama-comedy series  Henke and the rest of the cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2016. 

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Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Brad William Henke arrives at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Recently, he starred in the post-apocalyptic miniseries "The Stand."

In an interview with HorrorGeekLife in 2021, Henke reflected on the duality of his careers, saying that his first profession prepared him for the second. 

"Football helped me learn how to be disciplined, how to take criticism, to always try your best, so you can definitely use some of the same things and that was a big help for me when I started acting," he said. 

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