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Alex Karras, Football Star and Actor, Dead at 77

Alex Karras has died after a long illness. He was 77.

AP (“Alex Karras, former NFL lineman, actor, dies at 77“):

Alex Karras was one of the NFL’s most feared defensive tackles throughout the 1960s, a player who hounded quarterbacks and bulled past opposing linemen.

And yet, to many people he will always be the lovable dad from the 1980s sitcom ”Webster” or the big cowboy who famously punched out a horse in ”Blazing Saddles.”

The rugged player, who anchored the Detroit Lions’ defense and then made a successful transition to an acting career, with a stint along the way as a commentator on ”Monday Night Football,” died Wednesday. He was 77.

Karras had recently suffered kidney failure and been diagnosed with dementia. The Lions also said he had suffered from heart disease and, for the last two years, stomach cancer. He died at home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, said 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.

His death also will be tied to the NFL’s conflict with former players over concussions. Karras in April joined the more than 3,500 football veterans suing the league for not protecting them better from head injuries, immediately becoming one of the best-known names in the legal fight. Mitnick said the family had not yet decided whether to donate Karras’ brain for study, as other families have done.

Karras is, for me, in the same category as Don Meredith and Merlin Olsen: great football players in the days before I was a fan who I came to know as television stars. It won’t be long before Michael Strahan, recently signed on as Regis Philbin’s replacement, is in that category for young viewers.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Nikki says:

    Mongo only pawn in the game of life.

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  2. Fiona says:

    RIP Alex.

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  3. Franklin says:

    It wasn’t until this story broke that I knew that guy played for the Lions. And was good, too – would be in the HoF if not for a little gambling incident …

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  4. Motopilot says:

    @Franklin: Alex was playing for the Lions when I became interested in pro football. Games between the Lions and Bears were always interesting, with Karras and Dick Butkus being major contributors to these teams being in “the black and blue league”.

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