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. sunspa1984

    NFL...take a lesson from congress(no don't become THAT corrupt)....any/every player in the NFL needs lifetime health insurance. Every time the public hears a story like this or about Junior or Mr. Singletary, right or wrong the NFL shoulders a certain amount of blame and smear on their reputation.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. spacklebutt

    mungo jerry

    October 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ghouchens

    Alex; You were a class act throughout your career as a football player and an actor. Part of a diminishing breed of human beings that cared about their behavior and sought to make the world better instead of just looking for what's in it for themselves. Best wishes as you journey into the next realm.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. johnnyapples

    Mongo: I'll let one rip in your memory, next time I'm at a campfire.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. johnnyapples

    Mongo: next campfire, I'll let one rip in your memory.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. brucelud

    Didn't Alex also co-host Monday Night Football with Howard and Frank for a couple of years?

    October 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • rugbydan

      Yes he did and was also a color commentator for the Canadian football League in the 70s too

      October 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Johnny B

    If you really want to know what a great person he was, read his book "Even big guys cry", pretty funny stuff. He was also prominently mentioned in George Plimpton's book "Mad duck and Bears".

    October 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Serenity

    My favorite movie of all time had this amazing man in it – Victor/Victoria. He gave me many laughs through the years, and he will be missed dearly.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. greg miller

    I liked Alex and enjoyed watching him in the NFL , TV and his movie....just a shame...too young

    October 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • curious

      too young? he was 77 that's only one year below average in the states and it's 33 years above average in Afghanistan. Not to say it's not too bad for his friends and family that he passed away, but most people in the world would be very lucky to live that long.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Yakobi

    Let's not gloss over the fact he was also suspended from the NFL for gambling on games and owned a bar that was linked to organized crime.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      He who is without sin, cast the first stone...

      October 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael J

      And you're a perfect human being? Good night and Godspeed Mr. Karras.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      Many people have opened bars and been amazed to find themselves running a gay bar. You can't control your customers.

      October 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. marzbarz

    Everything he did out-shines any crap. He is gone , don't speak ill of the dead. Karma is a M.F.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Name*robin

    May the brightness of Your love for each other carry You through this difficult time...my deepest sympathy to You.

    October 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mitch

    "mongo only pawn in game of life" God's speed Mr. karras

    October 11, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ancient Texan

    ALWAYS enjoyed him...good Football player and good actor and a good human being.

    October 11, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Hugh Jass

    He was a giant in a lot of ways; sadly missed. And yes, Mongo straight!

    October 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
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