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Alex Karras, NFL great and 'Webster' star, dies at 77

October 10, 2012|By Houston Mitchell
  • Alex Karras during his days with the Detroit Lions.
Alex Karras during his days with the Detroit Lions. (Associated Press )

Alex Karras, an All-Pro defensive lineman who went on to even greater fame as an actor, died Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home. He was 77.

Craig Mitnick, Karras' attorney, said Karras was surrounded by family.

Karras had been suffering from dementia and it was announced Tuesday that his kidneys were failing.

He was chosen 10th overall by the Detroit Lions in 1958 out of Iowa and was a four-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the team.

Karras' best-known roles were as the dad in the 1980s sitcom “Webster,” and as Mongo in the Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles," in which he memorably punched a horse and later uttered the classic line, "Mongo only pawn in game of life."

In the 1980s, he played a sheriff in the raunchy comedy “Porky's” and starred as Emmanuel Lewis' adoptive father, George Papadapolis, in “Webster.”

“Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex,” Lions president Tom Lewand said.

Karras' wife, Susan Clark,  said earlier this year that her husband's mind had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer drive and couldn't remember recipes for some of the favorite Italian and Greek dishes he used to cook.

“This physical beating that he took as a football player has impacted his life, and therefore it has impacted his family life,” Clark told the Associated Press earlier this year. “He is interested in making the game of football safer and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement.”

You can read Sam Farmer's full obituary on Karras here.


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