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. SideOfBacon

    Z, 4, Q, another Q, a third Q, and the Batman symbol. Alex Karras in Mortuary. RIP former Lion and actor.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jim34

    Alex who? why is this nobody is on CNN's front page?

    October 10, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • OvernOut

      You must not have Wednesday classes, but remember, there, troll, midterms are coming up.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Carla

      What a nasty hateful comment.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Mongo

      Me sad dumb Jim no remember Mongo.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • sallyhally

      He was not a NOBODY...He was well known and loved by many people. Why don't you stop writing comments like this for peoples family and friends to read Mr. Nobdy. does anyone know who you are.....doubtful...except for maybe a handful...a small handful.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dusty2701

      You need to stay away from the computer games and get out more.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • eagle11

      Yeah, just a genuine nice guy makes the cover instead of a Murderer or Rapist and that's no good. Maybe they should put a Moron like Jim34 on the cover, RIP Alex.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Robb 1371

      Ever hear of the NFL ?

      October 10, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • tb3326

      Was it really necessary to prove that you are an idiot?

      October 10, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      why is this nobody is on CNN's front page?

      Hey Jim. Instead of insulting someone who was more important and successful than you, try working on your 6th grade level grammar. Why is this nobody is on? Hilarious!!!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • colt45

      For Jim34: Alex Karras was a beloved football star turned actor. You are probably too young to have known and followed his career. Why not research him before showing your ignorance!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • doug

      this jim is no waco kid. maybe lilly vonstuck and her great singing.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Should be more like Jim who.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wondering

      The "32" must be your IQ

      October 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wondering

      Sorry Jim.....made you more dumb than you may be. That's "34". Although after that comment, maybe we should stick with "32"......Yup...."32" it is

      October 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. doug

    "mongo like candy"- boom.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Emma

      : ) and Mongo is good and kind. We love good Mongo and Mr Karras.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      "Mongo isn't a who, more like a what."

      October 10, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dave

    Candy gram for Mongo!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • doug

      me mongo

      October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dusty2701

    Outstanding football player and actor. He was terrific as Hans Brumbau (a.k.a Potato Brumbau) in the TV mini series Centennial back in 1978 and '79. Plus, he was a genuine down to earth human being who cared about others. He would talk to anybody and anything. He wasn't self-centered like most athletes and actors. Fame didn't go to his head. You had a good ride through this world. Keep a light burning for the rest of us believers, Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. RPreston

    He was a wonderful actor. I loved his performance in "Victor/Victoria" with James Garner and Julie Andrews. RIP and condolences to his family and loved ones.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    Jim34, you should know that most adults don't consider him a nobody. He was a great man, actor, activist, and football player. When one of the Kardashians die and it makes CNN's front page, THEN you can call CNN out, because each and every one of them is a nobody.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. charliebear240

    Awesome middle line backer for the Lions. As a Redskins fan, I remember well Alex Karras's intensity and love of the game that caused "skins" fans many extra trips to the refrigerator for another brew and a few choice cuss words too! . He also played a great role in the TV mini series "Centennial". He will be missed by many and remembered for a long, long time.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Carla

    Yet another nasty comment.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. shaky

    JIm34 – Because there was a world before you existed. When you die will you rate a notice in a public place ?

    October 10, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. mustang

    So sorry for the wife and family. RIP

    October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. USA

    RIP Alex.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. OvernOut

    Wasn't he just a nice guy, though? He's my Lion first, and my Mongo second. RIP. I hope more attention is paid to neurological damage that these sports guys have, some of what's discovered might help my little college kid who happens to have epilepsy. A rising tide floats all boats, if they find out what's happening to the sports dudes, maybe it will translate back to the regular folks with neuological problems.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. sallyhally

    RIP Akex Karras... My prayers are with your family today for the peace and comfort that God's mercy and grace provide.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Robb 1371

    Seems like you did.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
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