After a heroic fight with kidney disease, dementia and stomach cancer, former NFL player and actor Alex Karras died Wednesday, a family spokesman said. He was 77.
Karras, who had recently suffered kidney failure, passed away at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, said Craig Mitnick, Karras’ attorney.
Drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1958 with the 10th overall pick, Karras spent 12 seasons with the club, was named to the Pro Bowl four times (1960-62, 1965) and he was selected by the NFL to be on the All-Decade team of the 1960s.
He was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
“The entire Detroit Lions family is deeply saddened to learn of the news regarding the condition of one of our all-time greats, Alex Karras,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a team statement released Monday. “Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex.”
While Karras earned plenty of recognition for his prowess on the gridiron, his fame skyrocketed when he segued into acting after his NFL career.
In probably his most well known role, Karras was cast as George Papadapolis in the 80s sitcom, Webster. The show, which made a star of Emmanuel Lewis, had a six-year run and featured Karras as a retired pro football player who adopted the orphaned son of a former teammate.
Besides his role in Webster, Karras had parts in the 500 Pound Jerk (1973), Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles (1974), and spent three years (1974-1976) alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford in the broadcast booth for Monday Night Football.
Karras is survived by his second wife, Susan Clark, and his six children — Alex, Pete, Carolyn, George Plimpton Karras, Renald and Katie.