Leon White, best known as Vader during his time in the world of professional wrestling, died Monday at the age of 63.
In a pair of Twitter posts Wednesday morning, one of White’s children said his father died of heart failure after battling pneumonia over the past month. White, who had a variety of heart issues in recent months, had open-heart surgery in late March.
As Vader, White spent more than 30 years in professional wrestling with one of the most iconic looks in the history of the business — a red and black singlet, and a mask of thin strips of red and black leather that made up a menacing webbing.
White first found success wrestling in Japan, where he became IWGP heavyweight champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the late ’80s. The Los Angeles native entered the United States wrestling picture in 1990 for WCW, where he also became a world champion, and eventually moved on to WWE (then known as the WWF) in 1996.
He later performed for All Japan Pro Wrestling and won its top title, and continued performing in the ring until as recently as April 2017.
Before his career in pro wrestling, White was a two-time All-American center at the University of Colorado and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1978 NFL draft. He was a part of the Rams’ Super Bowl XIV roster before knee problems brought his NFL career to an end.
White’s popularity stretched beyond the ring as well, with television appearances on 1990s hits “Baywatch” and “Boy Meets World” among his credits. (Courtesy ESPN)