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. sallyhally

    Really????? who cares about you and your nasty comments. Say something positive or stay off.....

    October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. eagle11

    Shouldn't you be shopping or something ??

    October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. fred davis

    Alex was a very funny guy, who loved jokes and golf games. I recall a match with grenades going off and wild animals running about.

    The world is a less funny place without the old defensive tackle.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. doug

    sheriff bart only man to ever whoop mongo. mongo impressed

    October 10, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Acroyear

      Huh-huh, naw, Mongo straight.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      That brings back memories. Our family laughed until tears came from our eyes. He was the perfect straight man for that zany western spoof. Especially the scene where he comes into town riding a bull, & that wussy guy tells Mongo he can't leave his animal there. It took some clever moves on Alex's part, & a lot of trust in him from the animal to make it look like he decked that horse with one punch.
      Thank you Alex, for the laughter, you made our world a little better. Sincere condolences to his family & friends.

      October 14, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Emma

    A wonderful person with a kind generous heart. He will be missed. Bet he is an angel now.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. commen sense

    Jim34, your a heartless ignorant puke. Typical new age idiot that hates what he doesn't know or understand. Grow up and have some respect for the passing of a great man. Your lack of knowledge is not something you should profess too the world DA!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mammy Patinkin

    Why you steal Webster from me you bad bad man?

    October 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. colt45

    CNN, Where are
    the 156 comments? Why are there only 2 on my comment list?

    October 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Acroyear

    "No. Don't do that, don't do that. If you shoot him you'll just make him mad." Fair winds and following skies Alex...Mongo gave me a lot of laughs over the years 🙂

    October 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. doug

    actually after thinking about, mongo was richard pryor's idea of a character for the film, and mel brooks wrote and directed the film, so i'd say he had to be a someone for pryor and brooks to want him.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GIUK

    He was great. Everbody liked him. Except maybe horses.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • doug

      i still need to know the joke behind putting yes/no on the bulls rump was when he rides into town.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David

    Hans Brumbaugh – potato farmer . . . unforgettable.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Craig

    I always remember when Tom Dempsey made to 63 yard field goal and Karras said if he makes it he is walking home...sure enough nobody saw him in the locker room and they found him walking home...

    October 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. shuffler

    Very nice fellow!

    October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ocaritas

    Kinda thinking that 1980s doesn't need an apostrophe.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
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