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Fred Williamson is probably best known for his role in the Blaxploitation films Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem along with being a former professional football player. The Hammer celebrated a birthday this week.

Williamson was born in Gary, Ind. in 1938, and was a standout track and football star in high school. He attended Northwestern University on a football scholarship, and entered the professional ranks with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While playing defensive back, his hard-hitting style earned him his iconic nickname.

After entering the American Football League and starring for both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, the all-star player left the game behind to pursue a career in acting like fellow former football player turned actor, Jim Brown.

He got his start on television in 1968 but the early ‘70s was where he became a true star with the aforementioned films and several other key roles. Williamson continues to act to this day on both the big and small screen, and his imposing 6-foot-3 frame still commands respect.

The Hammer turned 81 on Tuesday.

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