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. Dale

    Don't forget he also did a stint in the MNF booth after Dandy Don went to NBC.

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

    RIP Alex. Mongo says Otis Sistrunk of the Oakland Raiders was the only player to graduate from the University of Mars.A classic from MNF.....

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

    Great actor. My favorite character in Victor/Victoria.

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

    Is this news? People die. How about stories about the living...suffering in slience... victimized by a judicial system unchecked by ANY external agency... now illegally stealing rights and money from victims... and worst of all... abusing children. Any story? [ crickets ] Thanks CNN staff. You're a real positive influence for a civil society. NOT.

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

      Don't worry to much about it, they won't run a story when you die.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • kilowatt23

      Would you mind taking your bitterness and go troll somewhere else.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • IMO

      Speaking of positive, nice rant.

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

      I think many people remember him fondly. He was widely followed as a football player and as a television actor. This is news and I appreciate CNN for taking notice of his passing.. I saw him as a really good sit com actor and Webster was a regular on our TV when I was growing up.. Peace be with his family.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Criminy

      You are right, when YOU die, it won't be news. When someone who was a great athlete and loved tv star dies, it is big news. Did your mother make you read this? You didn't have to read it... or comment on it. Unless someone made you. Poor you.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Becky

      Geez......take a pill.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      A good person such as Karras should be celebrated in life and death, and his death IS newsworthy. If you are that concerned about real and perceived issues in the world that needs to be reported then become a reporter and write articles for them. Better yet start your own news organization and publish your reports. Its called freedom, which means news organizations are free to report anything they feel is news. You do support freedom, right??

      October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Wardo

      This is news in the Entertainment and Sports sections. If you do not like these kind of stories, why do you read them? There is plenty of news on death and destruction on all the news websites and the 24 hour cable news shows. Go get your daily dose of misery there.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. mre2

    What a guy he was. He typified the hard-hitting style of football through the 60's and the brutality in "the pit". Anyone remember him as a pro-wrestler in the off-season?

    RIP Alex.

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

      I remember....he epitomized the grittiness of the Lions team at the time....I watched him wrestle also...back in the day
      of Bobo Brazil and the Sheik....

      October 10, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Hedley Lamarr

    Candy-gram for Mongo. Sorry for this bad news!

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

      Mongo only pawn in game of life.

      RIP Alex

      October 10, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. popcorn

    The economy is zoo bad. Healthcare is too expensive. Life Ended.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. Loyal Northern Democrat

    Time for Sarcastiball, where the men wear bras, tin foil hats, and use a ballon for a ball.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. glades2

    He was the kind of lineman not seen any longer, though as the article said their brute force apparently had serious consequences as their generation grew older – may he rest in God's peace and may He give us all peace who are of the same generation and are now also battling with physical problems are we grow old(er)...

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. chhhaa-ching

    Alex Karras , along with Art Donovan, were probably the two funniest guys in football. Karras wrote a book in the late 70's called "Even Big Guys Cry", a book I think is just about as good as Paper Lion. A great loss for old time fans, for the way the game used to be played.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sarah S.

    How sad. What a truly great guy!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. garypaul54

    Growing up in the 60s and 70s you knew about Alex Karras a great football player,and TV actor. Peace to you Alex and comfort for your family and love ones.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. 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 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Criminy

      Yes, we should all be just like you. Bitter to the end and leading a sad life.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rocco DiPasqualito

    I walked the path of flowers surrounded by the ray of sunshine. The music plays a melody of jazz and classical while the blades of grass reach towards the morning sun. To he who knows mortality understands there is no room for awkward gestures, only individuals dedicated to likenwolf admissions and subsequent removal of cursed alley dwellers and drunken bottom feeders. Population control at a cellular level, followed by the desire to become rich. Viva Las Vegas and long live the Queen.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. jimmynog

    I read recently that on average, 155,000 people die every single day. That's almost 2 per second. Funny how we, as a civilization, focus on only a tiny few of these deaths.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      A point well taken, but you make the case for the other side in your own statement. There are so many that die that we only notice the ones that made an impact on a great many. Nobody will know when i die, but i dont care. Its life. We are born, we live, we die. We experience while we are here. Some are blessed to be known by many and they take the opportunity to make an impact. I think AK made an impact in his own way and deserves some recognition for his accomplishments. RIP AK.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
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