(Marty Lederhandler / Associated…)
Former football great Alex Karras, who died Wednesday at age 77 after battling kidney failure, cancer and dementia, was able to successfully transition from a career as a pro athelete to a successful career as an actor and Hollywood personality.
Though he appeared in a series of guest shots on such series as "Daniel Boone" and "Love, American Style," it wasn't until his appearance as the lumbering bad guy Mongo in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" that his star really took off.
He capitalized on his engaging personality with a run as a panelist on "Match Game '75," which was memorable for his run-in with Transylvanian female wrestler Lola Kiss.
OBITUARY: Alex Karras dies at 77
Before his acting career accelerated, Karras also rode a bit on his football fame, appearing as a commentator for ABC's "Monday Night Football" from 1974 to 1976.
He also had a lucrative career as a pitchman for various products, including Schlitz malt liquor, Faygo sugar-free red pop and JWipes.
But Karras' greatest post-football fame came from his role as the adoptive dad of Emmanuel Lewis' Webster on the classic '80s sitcom, which ran on ABC from 1983 to 1987 and then in syndication until 1989. Karras starred alongside his real-life wife, Susan Clark, and the pair co-produced the series as a starring vehicle for themselves.
Based on his "Webster" fame, Karras managed to host "Saturday Night Live" in 1985 and grabbed many more jobs as a pitchman for products including La-Z-Boy recliners, TV Guide and the Transformers.
Karras' final acting role was an appearance on Tom Arnold's short-lived sitcom, "The Tom Show," playing Tom's dad, in 1998.
Photos: Alex Karras 1935-2012
Athletes: Sporting life to reel life
Alex Karras dies at 77; actor also starred in the NFL
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