Late ‘Godfather’ Star James Caan Once ‘Played the Field’ in East Lansing
With news of his passing Hollywood legend, Jame Caan is being remembered for a slew of iconic Hollywood roles. The late actor passed away on July 6 at the age of 82 and fans & friends are reflecting on his stellar career that started in the early '60s.
Although one of his most memorable roles was that of tough hot-headed Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, he also is well remembered for the role that catapulted his career in the movie Brian's Song. It was in that 1971 film Caan played playing dying football player Brian Piccolo, opposite Billy Dee Williams as best friend and Chicago Bears teammate Gayle Sayers.
Playing a football player wasn't exactly a stretch for Caan when he took on the role of Piccolo. It was football & education that brought the actor to East Lansing, Michigan. In 1956 James "Jimmy" Caan was a student-athlete at Michigan State University who studied economics. Caan also played football under legendary head coach Duffy Daugherty in 1956 according to The State News.
James Caan was a Spartan for 2 years and suited up in the green and white as the quarterback for MSU, although rumor is he didn't see much playtime. He then left East Lansing to attend Hofstra University in New York, where he met Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather according to Spartans Wire.
Spartans consider him one of their most famous former students, and Caan never forgot his time at MSU either. Caan returned to campus in 1977 to see the premiere of his movie “Another Man, Another Chance” at Fairchild Theatre, and in 1997 he served as the grand marshall in the homecoming parade. On that visit, he spent time with the football team before the game and joined them in the traditional walk from Kellogg Center to Spartan Stadium.
Once a Spartan, always a Spartan. RIP James Caan.