NFL Hall Of Famer Alex Karras Dies, Karras Was 77
Alex Karras was one of the best known sports figures of the 20th Century. His face was known to millions both on the playing field and on the silver screen. Karras is best known as the rugged lineman who anchored the Detroit Lions’ defense in the 1960s. He was a terror on the field, using a variety of moves to push around opposing linemen and get into the backfield. His Lions handed the powerful 1962 Green Bay Packers their only defeat that season, a 26-14 upset on Thanksgiving during which they harassed Quarterback Bart Starr constantly.
Packers Guard Jerry Kramer wrote in his diary of the 1967 season about his trepidation over having to play Karras. “I’m thinking about him every minute,” Kramer wrote. The Detroit Lions drafted Alex Karras with the 10th overall pick in 1958 out of Iowa and he was a four-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the franchise. Alex Karras was born and raised in Gary, Indiana and was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1976. Karras was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a defensive tackle on the All-Decade Team of the 1960s.
Alex Karras was, first and foremost, one of the cornerstones to the Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the 1960s and also as one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL. Sports fans across the country came to know Alex as an announcer during the early years of Monday Night Football.’
“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 was hilarious playing the bruiser in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles in which he gets to punch out a horse (and floored the beast), he also delivered the classic line: “Mongo only pawn in game of life.” He was a big part of one of the funniest movies ever made.
For all of his great days on the football field, Alex Karras may have gained more fame when he turned to acting in the movies and on television.
Several years before that, Karras had already become a bit of a celebrity through George Plimpton’s behind-the-scenes book about what it was like to be an NFL player in Detroit, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-string Quarterback. Karras then got to play himself in the successful movie adaption. After that Karras worked as an analyst alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on Monday Night Football. Heady company, to say the least!
In the 1980s, he played a sheriff in the comedy Porky’s and became a hit on the TV as Emmanuel Lewis’ adoptive father, George Papadapolis, in the sitcom Webster.
Alex Karras was diagnosed with dementia, in April he joined the more than 3,500 former NFL players suing the league for not protecting them better from head injuries, immediately becoming one of the best-known names in the legal fight. Recently, his wife said Karras’ quality of life has deteriorated because of head injuries sustained during his playing career.
Alex Karras, who had recently suffered kidney failure, died at home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members. He was 77.