[Updated at 11:32 a.m. ET] Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle turned actor in the ABC sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home following a battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, according to a family spokesman.
He was 77.
Karras, a Gary, Indiana native, was an All-American at the University of Iowa before becoming a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, playing for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970. He went on to star in the 1980s' sitcom “Webster” – he played George Papadapolis, the guardian of the newly orphaned Webster, played by actor Emmanuel Lewis – and also played the horse-punching Mongo in the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles."
In April, he joined hundreds of former NFL players suing the league over concussion-related injuries, serving as lead plaintiff for what was then the 12th concussion-related complaint filed against the NFL by the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.
Karras “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” during his NFL career, and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas,” the lawsuit said.
His wife, "Webster” co-star Susan Clark, said in April that Karras suffered from dementia.
The more than 2,000 NFL players who are suing the league claim the NFL misled players concerning the risks associated with concussions. The NFL has repeatedly said that player safety is a priority and that any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit.
According to his family, "Karras had always dreamed of being an actor," and got a boost when Lucille Ball "took him under her wing and allowed him to train in small parts."
Karras also co-wrote autobiographies called "Even Big Guys Cry" and "Alex Karras by Alex Karras."
"His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations," his family said.
Memorial services are being planned and will be announced soon, his family said.
September 6, 2012: Football players more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease, study finds
Democrats support affirmative action programs in employment and college programs. Think before you vote.
Alex Karras also starred in a long miniseries "Centennial" in the 70s, was a Volga German farmer who settled in Colorado in the early years of the wild west.
A very funny guy...
And I believe that I read somewhere that he or another Detroit lineman he played with wound up almost an inch shorter as his neck was compressed from a career of bone-shaking collisions
RIP Alex...you made us laugh!
He was a dominating force on the field...an interior lineman who forced opposing offences to build their game plan around dealing with Alex Karras
He was double-teamed...triple-teamed...and they were still all afraid of him...and for good reason
And a genuinely funny guy!
Alex Karras was talented in a lot of ways. Total class act. Thanks for the laughs, big guy. My condolences to Susan Clark and his family and friends.
he was funny as a momma's boy with his imaginary dead mom in "nobody's perfekt"
I like corn.
Condolences to the family.
I loved watching him play football. I remember seeing him on TV (Johnny Carson?) before he started acting. He was such a funny guy. It is difficult to believe he could be such a hard-hitting player.
Condolences to the family, and thanks for sharing Ales Karras with us.
I hope they're going to examine his brain and determined if possible how many concussions he suffered in his life.
THANKS FOR INFO
Nice weblog here! Additionally your site lots up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink in your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol
Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it ;) I am going to come back yet again since i have bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.
This blog – This Just In – will no longer be updated. Looking for the freshest news from CNN? Go to our ever-popular CNN.com homepage on your desktop or your mobile device, and join the party at @cnnbrk, the world's most-followed account for news.