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. Lewis

    I was too young to ever see him play, but I remember his work on Webster when I was a kid. Then I saw Blazing Saddles when I got older...brilliant. He will be missed.

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

      Same here! Oh, how sad!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. LuvCilla

    Loved him in Victor/Victoria! Thoughts go out to his wife and family. Rest in peace, Mr. Karras!

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

      Yes, I love that movie. I really liked him as an actor and person. RIP

      October 10, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Denise Schofield

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Alex's family and friends. He will truly be missed. R.I.P Alex.

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

    Salt of the Earth this man was. May you rest in peace Mr. Karras

    October 10, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. Oh boy

    Mongo!!!! rip

    October 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Timothy

    I am too young to remember when he played football but I did like him as the dad on Webster. I just heard yesterday that he was having kidney failure and a day later he is gone, sad news.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. john

    Really enjoyed watching him play football. Remember an interview describing the record field goal of Tom Dempsey. Alex said the Lions couldn't believe it was going to be attempted and pretty much just waited to see.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. volsocal

    RIP, Mr. Karras.

    May sound counterintuitive, but if they want to decrease concussions in the NFL, then take away the helmets.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Barb

      Yes, if they were not so heavily padded and protected then maybe they would not play like they could not be injured.

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

    I'm sorry we lost you friend.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Big Al

    CNN fails again. They did not mention his nomination for best supporting actor in the film Victor/Victoria. This is unreal.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Renee

    RIP – You will always be bigger then life itself –

    October 10, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick

    Great human. big loss for film. Go to his great reward.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    Lead plaintiff? Mongo only pawn in game of life.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dossfx

    Although his football career was before my time, his acting was a significant part of my childhood. A great, great human being! His life should be celebrated, not mourned! God speed, Mr. Karras!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    Mongo only pawn in game of life...

    October 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
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