Alex Karras: Ex-NFL Star Passes Away at 77

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2012

Karras in 1971. Courtesy of Associated Press (via ABC News)
Karras in 1971. Courtesy of Associated Press (via ABC News)

Former Detroit Lions defensive lineman-turned-actor Alex Karras has passed away at the age of 77 following a two-year battle with stomach cancer, according to a report from

"After a heroic fight with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and for the last two years, stomach cancer," Karras died at his home, surrounded by family, (a family) spokesman said.

Karras spent his entire 12-year NFL career, from 1958 to 1970, with the Lions. He played in 161 games before hanging up his cleats for good at the age of 35 after being released by the team. 

During Karras' NFL career, he was voted to the All-Decade Team for the 1960s and was part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line in 1962 for Detroit that also featured Roger Brown, Darris McCord and Sam Williams. 

After Karras walked away from football, he found a very successful career as an actor. He starred on the 1980s sitcom Webster, where he played George Papadopoulos opposite Emmanuel Lewis for six seasons. 

He also played the role of Mongo in Mel Brooks' 1974 classic Blazing Saddles, in which he famously knocked out a horse. 

In recent years, Karras was part of a large group of former NFL players who were suing the league (via for failing to protect its players from injuries and head trauma during their playing days. 

For sports fans—and entertainment fans—the news of Karras' passing is going to have a profound impact. He was the rare athlete who found great success outside of his sport.