TAMPA (FOX 13) - The nation is remembering a Hollywood icon. Burt Reynolds died from a heart attack today in south Florida at the age of 82.
He starred in major box office hits like Smokey and the Bandit and received an Academy Award nomination for his role in “Boogie Nights.”
He was also a major fixture in the bay area after becoming part owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits football team.
One of Reynolds' former colleagues from the team, Jim McVay says Reynolds was a major force for the group.
McVay worked as the marketing director for the team and remembers Reynolds and other stars creating a spectacle at the games.
It was great for business.
McVay says despite his celebrity he was the same man on screen as he was off-screen.
"Everybody loved Burt. The women loved Burt. The guys loved Burt. He was just one of those guys that everyone wanted to be around him,” McVay said.
"He really helped the Bandits and we led the team in attendance for a few years," McVay said. "They just wanted to touch him. They just wanted a picture and to touch him. He was very popular. That was huge news for bandits. That really gave us a marketing boost."
On a shelf in McVay's office, a personally-signed Tampa Bay Bandit's poster reads, “To Jim, Your Friend, Burt Reynolds.”
"Burt was what you saw in the movies,” McVay said. “He was funny. He was happy. He liked being around people."
For the team's three seasons, Reynolds was part owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits from 1983-1986.
Anytime he visited Tampa for games, McVay remembers fans doing anything to get a glimpse.
"In between plays, they were all on their feet turning around looking up at the box and waving at Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds. It was quite a spectacle. It really was fun," McVay said.
He's thankful for the time he got to spend with him.
"We lost a great movie star and we lost a great guy who was just outstanding for us in the Tampa Bay area," he said.
Reynolds also spent time in Tampa in the early 1990s. That's when he did the movie "Cop and a Half," which was all shot here in the Bay Area.