Brad William Henke, Orange is the New Black Star and Former NFL Player, Dead at 56

Brad William Henke, a former Denver Bronco player and an actor best known for appearing in shows including Orange Is the New Black, has passed away. Henke’s manager Matt DelPiano confirmed the news in a statement, writing: “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.” The athelete turned actor passed away in his sleep with no cause confirmed, he was 56 years old.

Henke played Defensive end at the University of Arizona and was drafted by the New York Giants in the NFL Draft in 1989, though cut before the season began he would join the Denver Broncos and even play during Super Bowl XXIV, he would retire from the NFL in 1994. For many Henke was best recognized as prison guard Desi Piscatella in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, a role he played across 26 episodes throughout the series. The show was hardly his first acting role though as he began appearing in movies and television just two years after his NFL retirement.

His other television work includes plenty of 1990s hits like Chicago Hope, Nash Bridges, ER, and Sports Night. Thanks to his size Henke would naturally play heavies and tough guys on TV including in episodes of Dexter, CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds, The Chicago Code, Justified, Shameless, Longmire, Hawaii Five-0, and MacGyver. He would also appear in six episodes of Lost playing the part of Bram.


Henke’s career wasn’t limited to television either as his larger than life presence made its way to the big screen too. One of his first feature film roles was in Space Jam, playing a baseball player opposite Michael Jordan, with other appearances in Gone in 60 Seconds, Me and You and Everyone We Know, World Trade Center, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, Pacific Rim, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. Naturally, he also had a role in, you guessed it, Draft Day. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.