Ex-NFL star, actor Alex Karras dies, 77
Alex Karras starred in the 1980s TV show "Webster" after playing 12 years with the Detroit Lions.
October 10th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Ex-NFL star, actor Alex Karras dies, 77

[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

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soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    Condolences to his wife and family.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Craig Love

      They'll never be a safe way to protect , as long a people play idiot sports where physical damage is ithe objective, , like football, etc.

      October 10, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • chelle

      I know there is concussion related damage but there is also steroid related damages that are self-inflicted. My uncle was a professional football player and almost every single player of that era used steroids. It was the norm not the exception. He died of much the same diseases and he and his doctor swore that is was the steroids. As did Lyle Alzado

      October 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. sonobono

    RIP to a great man on so many different levels. Concolonces to his family and mumerous friends.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Emma

    This is very sad news. He as a wonderful person and great role model. He made the world a better, kinder, happier place. There truly is a new guardian angel – I bet he already has his wings on and is helping others .

    October 10, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. MASFD

    "Mongo just pawn in game of life." Great performance! RIP Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Anthony

      Great line...poor horse from that movie 🙂

      October 10, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pro Death

    I for one hope you're in a better place...

    October 10, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. doug

    God Bless, Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anthony

    Rest in peace Alex. You brought smiles to many faces, both from watching you on the field and the silver screen.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. joe

    A great man. He will be missed by everyone.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. mizh

    That is such sad news my sympathy to his family. RIP, Mr. Karrras.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. Fred Miller

    One of his acting roles I'll always remember was "Hans "Potato" Brumbaugh on James Michener's "Centennial" mini series. Very poignant acting as an inspiring character. RIP

    October 10, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bubbish

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Karras. We will not see your like again. You will be sorely missed. Thank you for all the laughs and wisdom you gave us over the years. Condolences to his family and friends.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. gmenfan54

    "Mongo like Candy". Rest in peace Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. IRONMIKE

    Does no one die of old age-Football players choose the pay over their own safety and where else could they make that kind of money every job has its down sides.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. davecu

    Rest in peace, Alex.

    Please know that you and your family have the love and respect of millions!

    October 10, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tim

    I loved Alex. Do you remember when he was on Monday Night football and would go into the stands and interview fans? It was always funny. Rest in peace my friend.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
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