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. Tony

    Will Fr. Karras perform the funeral mass?

    October 10, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jack

    Mongo only pawn in game of life.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      Maybe he go where choo-choo go.......

      October 10, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Symour

    As a player.... Karras was a MONSTER...!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Steve S

    R.I.P.......Alex

    October 10, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tendofreak

    yeap...truly a mans-man. He was a great football player from the "old days" and a funny actor. Truly will be missed.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Akitus

    Dont forget about Porky's, hilarious movie where he played the sheriff and porkys brother

    October 10, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      I think he also appeared on the "Odd Couple" TV show

      October 10, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kurt S

    Great Iowa Hawkeye. Great Detroit Lion. Great Mongo. The Hawkeye family will miss you.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Hadenuffyet

    RIP Alex...Liked him , but you got to know that repeatedly bashing your head is not conducive to well being.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • bibleverse1

      Most people dont see the connection. It is clear in boxing but only know it is widely known in other contact sports. Look for hockey to be the next sport that the concussion hammer comes down on. Its sad it took so long.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. bibleverse1

    Mongo only pawn in game of life.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. citizenUSA

    RIP Alex. I loved to watch you play football and I know you loved playing. Your squads were the toughest at the time. It's very sad that it made your life miserable and possible ended it.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. fiftyfive55

    We'll miss ya Al,er,Mongo.lol Great guy and great actor we will miss you.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    "You can't twirl a superior officer!"

    October 10, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. James Kinders

    First: R.I.P.
    Second: You lawsuit is BS, so after the firstconcussionn were you blacked out you never thought to yourself...hmmm, I think this is bad for my body? Of course the MILLIONS you made did not influence your playing decision...right?!?!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Boisepoet

      Idiot...go look up the salaries for NFL players in the 60's and it was not millions.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Guys who played in the 50's, 60's and 70's didn't make millions! Karras played at a time that injuries were something you shook off and concussions were just part of the game.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Paulie

      Karras played in a different era of football when he was drafted by the Lions in 1958. He didn't play durring the years were players as you would say making "MILLIONS". I am sure back in the 60's no one talked about head trauma. RIP Mongo. Never saw you play football but enjoyed your movies.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      James,
      You don't get it. If everyone quit playing after their first concussion there would be no NFL. This is how they make a living and Karras did not make millions playing football. The NFL has to do a better job of eliminating consussions.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nelson

    A genuinely decent guy with wit, talent and honesty. We are all blessed by his sharing those attributes with us. He will be missed, but never forgotten. Condolences to his family and closest friends. RIP.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. aardman

    Time for the barbaric game called American football to die a natural death. No need for legislation or massive litigation to ban it, just parents looking after their kids' welfare and not letting them play a sport that when played by the rules, guarantees you permanent brain injury.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • AlexCareless

      As long as women... and pansy men who like watching other men in tight pants earn millions pile on one another... this "game" will continue... and why not? Our society is so sick it's not surprising.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Deb Ed

      And boxing is any better?

      October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      No, no, no, no. Too many hard working people out of work, on food stamps, and facing foreclosures. Besides, there will be no incentive for high school athletes to continue onto college; therefore, widening the education gap between young black men and everybody else in college.

      R.I.P. Alex. Loved you in Webster and Blazzing Saddles. Heartfelt condolences to his family.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Becky

      AlexCareless.....if you find this article so irrelevant, why do you keep coming back and making comments on it? You seriously need to locate a life.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
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