Alex Karras, one of the most intimidating NFL defensive linemen of the 1960s who later turned into a lovable dad in the 1980’s sitcome “Webster” and the lumbering Cowboys named “Mongo” in the movie “Blazing Saddles,” died on Wednesday. He was 77.
Karras, who was voted into the Pro Football Hallof Fame and was selected as a member of the All Decade team of the 1960s, anchored the Lions’ defensive line, had recently suffered from kidney failure and was diagnosed with dementia. He died at home surrounded by family members, according to Craig Mitnick, Karras’ attorney.
"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 recently added his name to more than 3,500 other players suing the NFL for not protecting them from head injuries. Karras is one of the most recognizable former players participating in the lawsuits.
Karras was suspended for the 1963 season by former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle after being implicated in a gambling probe. Karras admitted to placing bets on NFL games and was suspended along with former Packers running back Paul Hornung.
Karras played for 12 seasons
Karras, the 10th overall pick in 1958, was a four-time All Pro selection and played for 12 seasons.
After his career, he made the successful transition to acting, and also had a stint as a Monday Night Football commentator.
In “Blazing Saddles,” he slugged a horse and delivered a memorable line, “Mongo only pawn in game of life.” Before that, he had appeared in George Plimpton’s behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to be an NFL player in the movie, “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-string Quarterback.”
In the 1980s, Karras played a sheriff in the comedy "Porky's" and then had a starring role as Emmanuel Lewis' adoptive father, George Papadopoulos, in the sitcom "Webster." He also had roles in "Against All Odds" and "Victor Victoria" and portrayed the husband of famed female athlete "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias in the TV movie that starred Susan Clark, who later became his wife. The two formed their own production company, and Clark played the role of his wife on “Webster."