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

soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. JC

    One of the all time greats of the NFL. One of the funniest guys on MNF and on the Tonight show. Said "Otis Sistrunk looked a graduate of the University of Mars:

    October 10, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. OldestSeaDog

    So sorry to hear this. Prayers for his family and friends. Karra was/is one of the great ones.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. 1gadawg

    R.I.P. Mongo....

    October 10, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jack Be Humble

    "Mongo just a pawn in game of life." - We'll miss you.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa Payne

    I loved him in Victor/Victoria. Terrific performance. One of the few great athletes that I think may a successful switch to acting.

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

      OMG – you're right! Everybody's talking about Mongo (which was hilarious) but he was WONDERFUL in Victor/Victoria, in a part that he must have worried a little bit about taking at that time. His performance is so great, understated, but really terrific. Thanks for reminding us all about that. Now I'm even sadder -

      October 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Connie

    Rest in peace Alex.. Thoughts and prayers to the family ..

    October 10, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    He will always be remembered fondly as Mongo. One of the greatest bit parts in movie history. In one of the best movies ever made.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. tb3326

    Loved him as a NFL player, an actor and as a man.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rob

    One of the greatest part of any movie ever! Rest in Peace Mongo!

    October 10, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. John

    Goodbye Mongo.

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

    So sorry to hear this. May he rest in peace. My prayers go out to his family during this time of sorrow.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dennis Donnelly

    Mongo just pawn in game of life. Aren't we all Alex, aren't we all. RIP

    October 10, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Martha C

    Such sad news...great football player and actor! First thing I thought of was Mongo in Blazing Saddles. Thoughts go out to his family.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. bobby

    Just a big O Teddy Bear! What a loss and just the best guy in the world who will be missed greatly.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Greg

    thanks for your years with the Lions and the gentle humor. RIP

    October 10, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
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