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.

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soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. carlos

    ABSOLUTELY LOVED HIM. Genuine man who will be genuinely missd.

    God's speed, champ !

    October 10, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Derrick

    R.I.P Alex Karras, we shall miss u.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tracy

    AlexCareless...you need a hug, a role model, and a friend!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. erikd211

    Mongo was only pawn...in game of life. He'll be missed.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tim Megaw

    RIP Alex. It's a tribute to you, the way you played in football, movies and life, that nobody (and this is rare in these threads) has a bad word to say about you! God bless you and Susan and thanks!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rich

    I loved that show that he starred in the 80s where he and his wife somehow gave birth to a black kid, that turned out to be a midget. Hysterical! They don't write show like that anymore.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • stwebb

      Gee...

      I always thought giving birth, and adopting an orphan were two different things!?!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • solex67

      They adopted the kid – he was an orphan. If you loved the show as much as you say you would have known that.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Stumpy G

      No , No, No. He played a super rich guy and he adopted two little black kids from the ghetto that came to live with him and his daughter. The housekeeper later got her own show.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bryce

    He played Potato Brumbaugh in the TV movie, "Centennial" and was outstanding.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. SD

    I loved his acting. May you rest in peace and may God bless his family. Thank you.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Cat

    I loved this guy. RIP, Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. Recondo-101

    RIP Alex, a good man is gone.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. Shanny

    No show just 110% Football a great man who will be missed!! Rest in Peace!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Asiebu Perekuns

    may his suol rest in peacs.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. lindaluttrell

    A great player. Loved him in Blazing Saddles! My condolences to his family.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. solex67

    They forgot one of his most funniest roles – that of the gay bodyguard in Victor/Victoria:

    "Mr. Bernstein has left a permanent dent in the mattress".

    October 10, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      most funniest? really? anyway...Mongo was definitely his "most funniest" role.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • solex67

      Sorry, but acting like a moron for jokes takes no talent. Playing a football player who has to hide his preference while working for the mob is a MUCH more challenging and interesting role.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. karek40

    Wow, kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, wonder if any of this was a result of steroids. He was an outstanding player.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
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