Brad William Henke, NFL Player Turned Actor, Has Died

Brad Henke in 'Orange Is the New Black'
(Image credit: Jojo Whilden//Netflix)

Brad William Henke, who played prison guard Desi on Orange is the New Black, died November 29. He was 56. No cause of death was confirmed, but Henke shared on Instagram last year that he had a serious blockage in an artery, and then received two stents in his heart. 

Henke had an NFL career before getting started in acting. He grew up in Littleton, Colorado and played football at the University of Arizona. Standing 6’ 3” and weighing 275 pounds, he was drafted by the New York Giants in 1989 and was cut, then played for the Denver Broncos, including the 1990 Super Bowl. He was a defensive end. 

Injuries cut his career short, and Henke shifted to coaching. Former NFL player Rod Martin suggested Henke try acting, according to the New York Times, and he started out in a commercial for Pizza Hut. 

His character on Netflix drama Orange is the New Black was a gay corrections officer. He appeared in more than two dozen episodes. Henke’s TV credits also include ER, Justified, The Stand and Lost, and his movie work includes Mr. Wrong and Space Jam. ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.