Alex Karras
Post-gridiron acting included 'Webster'

LOS ANGELES Alex Karras, an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions who later worked as a "Monday Night Football" co-host and parlayed his hulking strength into a Hollywood acting career, died Wednesday. He was 77.

Mr. Karras died at his Los Angeles home, his attorney Craig Mitnick said. Mr. Karras had suffered kidney failure days earlier, the latest in a variety of health problems that included dementia and cancer.

He was one of more than 3,500 former NFL players who are suing the league in a dispute over concussion-related injuries.

A dominant fixture on Detroit's defensive front for 12 seasons, Mr. Karras was known to millions for his role as "Mongo," the monosyllabic, horse-punching brute in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles." He later starred in the ABC sitcom "Webster," which ran from 1983 to 1987.

Although he stood 6-foot-3 6 feet 3 inches, the 248-pound Mr. Karras was wide enough to be stocky, and he routinely fought his way past blockers at the line of scrimmage to burst into the offensive backfield.

He was named to four Pro Bowls and was also named All-Pro an even more exclusive honor four times. The Lions named him to their All-Decade Team for the 1960s.

"While his legacy reached far beyond the gridiron, we always will fondly remember Alex as one of our own and also as one of the best to ever wear the Honolulu Blue and Silver," Lions President Tom Lewand said a statement released Wednesday.

Mr. Karras' playing career was interrupted by controversy, however. In 1963, the NFL urged him to sell his financial interests in a Detroit bar rumored to be associated with gambling and organized crime. Mr. Karras first threatened to retire, then admitted to placing bets on NFL games. He was suspended for one season, along with Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung.

Showing an early flair for theatrics, Karras dabbled in pro wrestling during his exile from the NFL, taking on "Dick the Bruiser" former Packers lineman Dick Afflis at Olympia Stadium in Detroit.

The early part of that match went according to plan, including Karras punching Afflis in his eye patch, causing fake blood to flow. The two eventually scrapped the script, though, with Afflis grabbing Karras by the throat, pinning him, and later admonishing: "Football players should leave wrestling to wrestlers and go back to their betting."

When he returned to the Lions in 1964, Karras poked fun at his own reputation, once refusing when a referee asked him to call the pregame coin toss.

"I'm sorry, sir," Karras said. "I'm not permitted to gamble."

Born July 15, 1935, in Gary, Ind., Alexander George Karras was the fourth of six children of George and Emmiline Karras, a Greek immigrant doctor and nurse, who lived in an apartment above their medical practice. His brothers Lou and Ted would also become NFL players, although neither was as successful as their younger brother.

Alex played at the University of Iowa, where he won the Outland Trophy as college football's dominant lineman, and helped the Hawkeyes to victory over Oregon State in the 1957 Rose Bowl.

A first-round draft pick of Detroit in 1958, Karras played with the Lions until 1971, when his contract was terminated because of what team officials called "diminishing athletic prowess."

"It's really very sad for most guys," Karras told the Detroit Free Press about the way football careers often end. "They've been playing football all their lives. They're 31, say, and whack! A knee injury or something and they're on the street, with no idea how to spend the rest of their lives."

Mr. Karras dabbled in acting during his NFL career, playing himself in the 1968 movie "Paper Lion," based on George Plimpton's non-fiction sports book.

When his NFL career ended, Mr. Karras moved to Hollywood to pursue acting full time. He made cameo appearances in several popular TV shows, among them "Love, American Style," "The Odd Couple," "McMillan & Wife," and "M*A*S*H."

He worked in the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth from 1974 to 1976, alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford. Newsweek described Mr. Karras as "a gleefully free-spirited amalgam of Babe Ruth, Nathan Detroit and Archie Bunker."


To some, he is best remembered for his role in "Blazing Saddles," a role he secured by dressing in ragged clothes and pounding Mongo-style on the front door of the director's home. Brooks gave him the part on the spot.

One of the movie's most famous scenes is Mongo flooring a horse with a one-punch knockout. The horse was unharmed.

"I thought it was hilarious, but I didn't want to hurt that horse at all, believe me," Karras said in a 2011 interview with the "Sports and Torts" Internet radio show. "I'm not the type of person to do that."

Karras had parts in other movies, including "Porky's," "Victor/Victoria " and "Against All Odds."


His longest-running role was on TV's "Webster," in which he and his real-life wife, actress Susan Clark, were the adoptive parents of the title character, played by Emmanuel Lewis.

Besides Clark, Mr. Karras is survived by their daughter and five children from a previous marriage.

Published by The Record/Herald News on Oct. 11, 2012.
Add a Message

Not sure what to say?

472 Entries
You and Susan were great fun on the Cabo cruise. Katie had the broken leg and got along better than us during rough water. Don and I enjoyed a party at your home another time and your visit to Kentucky for the races. Such a kind, fun and generous family.
Pat Wood
February 7, 2021
Rest in Peace Alex, and thank you for for the wonderful football, film and TV memories. Unforgettable for my generation.
Harry Simpson
October 11, 2019
Rip alex u sure b proud of ur son hes a fine young man
Gerald Nicholoff
December 4, 2017
Nazarene Mckinney
March 21, 2017
Valenda Newell
October 12, 2016
I and thousands of my peers growing up in Detroit in the 60's idlolized Alex Karras. My fondest memories are; my high School football coach handing me a pair of his hand me down spikes. I couldn't find a pair to fit my big feet, let alone afford them. The next was sitting in the cheap seats at Olympia Stadium watching the Big Event. Rest In Peace.
Dave Ostrander
December 25, 2013
Memory eternal!
November 4, 2013
Mrs. Karras, My heart goes out to you at the loss of your husband. I recently lost my husband of 47 years and I know your pain. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.
Nancy Malone
September 22, 2013
Josie Pulis
May 7, 2013
To Alex Karras,
You were a great job actor. When I saw on the sitcom Webster starring Emmanuel Lewis you made me laugh. My prayers go out to your wife Susan Clark. Lisa Weiner
Lisa Weiner
December 9, 2012
Warm and wonderful Alex, May you rest in the arms of angels. We will always remember you. Valarie "Hawkins"Green Lori "Hawkins" Todd
November 19, 2012
I will always have fond memories of our time together
November 10, 2012
Glynda Prendergast
November 8, 2012
Stephanie Smith
November 4, 2012
Watching a tv show that you can say was a whole family show,it was miss. May the God of all comfort be with the Family of Alex's.
November 3, 2012
My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends R.I.P. Alex!
November 3, 2012
May u rest n peace alex.
Annmarie Hercules (Fletcher)
November 3, 2012
Wow, we lost a real I-con in Alex Karras. I followed the Detroit Lions in the great days of Alex and all his defensive team mates from 1958 through the 1960's - what games. In 1961 I became engaged to my wife and took her to the Thanksgiving Day Game against the Packers. She was not impressed - but later also became a huge football fan. Used to go watch the Lion practices at Cranbrook and Alex would say hello. One great memory of him was in 1964 when I was assigned, from my job in General Motors, to work at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc and as luck would have it was assigned to Paul Krause and Alex to help make sure they got their parking places and escorted to the club house. They were both very popular and the crowds followed them everywhere. Paul was quite and reserved, but Alex had the crowd in the palm of his hands, making jokes with everyone. My copy of the Paper Lion is worn from so many readings. Those of us in Michigan have missed Alex for several years since his move to California - but he will always remain in our hearts.

LW - Grand Blanc, Michigan
November 1, 2012
Sorry to read about your lost
juanita green
October 28, 2012
I remember Alex as the tv dad. I wish the family healing and peace.
Carlie Williams
October 28, 2012
In 1980, I (pregnant) watched "Jimmy B & Andre. Each time that Alex said "Andre" I was so captivated by his beautiful eyes and pronunciation of Andre. I did not have a name for this unborn child. I decided Andrea if a girl and Andre for a boy. He is a boy with beautiful loving eyes. Sure wish I could get the movie to leave to "my Andre Xavier Gonzalez". Susan- such a beautiful man. The world is going to miss him.
Ginger Pena-Guerrero
October 20, 2012
Growing up I loved Webster. I was saddened to hear of Mr. Karras passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many others who loved him.
J Jones
October 20, 2012
Lou--I tried to phone you but ur line was disconnected. I'm so sorry to read of ur brother's death. Please contact me.
Betty Baker-Grimm
October 18, 2012
From one Hoosier to the family of another, all best wishes and prayers for "peace that passes all understanding" following the passing of Alex Karras! I've loved both Alex and Candy their entire careers and still appreciate the great work they did on the Babe Didrikson Zaharias story; as well as Alex's work in "Paper Lion," "Blazing Saddles" and "Victor/Victoria"! All God's best to you and your family, Candy! Pastor Kris (South Bend/Mishawaka, IN)
Pastor Kris
October 18, 2012
U.Have lost a good Guy may God be with you all.I will have you all in my prays to night.
October 18, 2012
Sorry to hear about your loss this was a wonderful man.
Rebecca Sewell
October 17, 2012
Will miss this wonderful person. A wonderful actor, sports commentator, and football player.
Robert Johnson
October 17, 2012
So much talent, Detroit Lions wasn't my team but loved to watch him play. Loved the Lazyboy commercials. Webster was a hit with all the viewers! God bless his loved ones. And thanks for sharing him with the rest of us over the years.
Diane Matusevich
October 16, 2012
I was a friend of Alex many years ago in Gary, Indiana....He was always a fun guy that my friends and I liked to run with....We shot pool together and had all kinds of great times on the beach of Lake Michigan.
Bob Bunjan
October 16, 2012
Dear Susan,
We are all very sorry to hear of your loss. We will miss seeing the two of you in booth #1 at Tesoro. We send our thoughts and prayers to you at this difficult time. Our best to you and your family.
Joelle Rogers
Tesoro Restaurant
Collingwood, Ontario
Joelle Rogers
October 16, 2012
Susan: I was so very sad to hear about Alex. You all have been in my thoughts often over the years. I lost Maston in 2004 and have been in NC full time. No more Florida! Susan,it would be so special to hear from you at sometime. Please let's get in touch. Love, Jayne 828/891-3740
Jayne O'Neal
October 16, 2012
God Blessed Mr.Karras With So Many Talents ! Rest In Peace ! And Thanx For Such Great Memories !!
Richard Wagner
October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012
Loved him as an actor he looked like a teddy bear
Dennie Garraway
October 16, 2012
God bless you lived in your own world.....and it was a beautifull world.....may god bless you soul
Boyd Ellis
October 16, 2012
Will be missed
October 16, 2012
My Mother babysat for you. Emerson HS, Gary IN. "Mad Duck" 71. My hero in High School Football. I'll never forget Alex Karras, "ugly crud".
October 15, 2012
May the grace of God be with the Karras family. Alex was one the best. He was a class act a great football player and wonderful actor he will be greatly missed. rest in peace big guy!
Timothy Flow
October 15, 2012
My prayers and love go to the family and friends. Thanks Alex for all your greatness God let you give us while you were here with us on earth. May you rest in peace in God's loving arms. And may your family, friends and your fans celebrate your life and remember the greatness instead of the grief as soon as "we are over the shock."
October 15, 2012
RIP Alex You were a talent on the football field and on screen. Thanks for the Memories.
October 15, 2012
I knew Alex when he was at the U of Iowa. He was not only a great football player, but a humble guy with a great sense of humor. He sure could knock down those huge steaks at Bill Zubers steak house. My sympathies go out to his family. Dr. Stanley Kantor
October 15, 2012
October 15, 2012
My sympathy to the entire family.
Dixie Davenport Nacke
October 15, 2012
Romans 15:33
October 15, 2012
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
October 15, 2012
Man football was great then
bob waters
October 15, 2012
So sorry for your loss, praying for the family.
October 15, 2012
Gave Football it all! Is my Hero!GOD BLESS!
Roy Richard jr
October 14, 2012
he'll be miss
helen powell
October 14, 2012
Loved forever in Webster & as DetroitLion bless the Karras & Clark families....
Lane Family
October 14, 2012
October 14, 2012
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
October 14, 2012
October 14, 2012
You will be deeply missed. Alex I loved you as the dad in the show Webster. To make your wife Susan know, I own three of your seasons of that great show so far on DVD. I am shocked and heartbroken to know that you had died but, I know that you are in no pain and have met the Lord in Heaven. May you guard and protect us all and know that you were great to everyone including me a fan of yours from way back when to when I was a child. I think it was great to know that you loved playing football but, it was sad knowing you got hurt too many times in that sport to cause you to suffer and to forget things. I know it was very hard for Susan and everyone else who knew you and loved you to see you not only change through out the years but, to live less years then expected. I will always love you as Alex and as George. To me you were more of a George then an Alex cause I had seen you on t.v. growing up. I pray to God that Susan and everyone will be okay.Mourning a love one and saying goodbye is never easy and for me ,I never say goodbye cause we will all meet again and it will only seem like minutes not years apart. Hugs to the Karras and Clark family.

God bless you
Your fan/your friend,
Kate Lewis.
Kate Lewis
October 13, 2012
"ME MONGO" lol Makes us laugh for now and ever! God Bless!
October 13, 2012
Thank You for allowing us watch your talents on and off the grid iron. May God wrap your family with happy, loving memories during this trying time. Rest in Peace, Mr. Karras.
October 13, 2012
Mr.Alex Karras, an All Pro and Hall Of Famer if there ever was one, gave a fat kid with horn rimmed glasses who played defensive tackle in 1970 and wore a MAD DUCK jersey back then someone to admire and identify with. You were one of a kind and stood out from the rest.My sympathies to the Karras family for your loss.
Bob Zajac (Agawam,MA)
October 13, 2012
You were a big man,with a bigger heart! Never knew you were in Porkys.You will live on forever in the hearts of many people! rest in peace my friend!
Rodger Osborne
October 13, 2012
You were great as Mongo!Very funny movie!very sorry to hear of you,re passing.God has a very special place for you on His team! You will be missed by many my friend!
Rodger Osborne
October 13, 2012
May God bless Alex Karras' family in this time of need. He will always be remembered for the joy he brought all of us who grew up watching him perform, whether on the gridiron or the screen, large and small. In Christ, John M.
John M
October 13, 2012
I am sorry for his loss. I know it is a hard pill to swallow. His actions on and off the field have proven life does not begin or end at the end of the 4th quarter. Prayers for his many friends, family and fans.
Cheryl Bean
October 13, 2012
I would like to extend my condolences to the Karras family. I did not have the privilege of meeting him but His brother Paul had him call me once to sing me Happy Birthday and I shall always remember that.
Mary Ann N.
October 13, 2012
Alex will definitely be missed. He was a lovely person. I am so sorry for your loss. ---1 Corinthians 15:26
October 13, 2012
Please take comfort in the hope in Psalms 46:1
October 13, 2012
Alex known as "George Papadapolis" rest in peace.

I will always remember you as a gentle man on "Webster".

You will be missed!!
October 13, 2012
B miller
October 13, 2012
We lost an entertainer, but he was someone's brother, son, uncle and grandpa. Many condolences to the family. The character he played in Webster was so endearing. May the KARRAS family find find comfort through God's love but also each other and the many memories you have of Alex. I am sure our heavenly father will provide the comfort no one else can provide.
October 13, 2012
My thoughts are with. You all. I eayched websteras a kid and loved it. He reminds me of a teadybear.
ellen kear
October 13, 2012
My condolences to the family.
Michael Mack
October 13, 2012
No doubt, NFL's greatest.
My sympathy to the entire Karras family.
ZOI SE SAS (may his memory be eternal)
Andy Callas
October 13, 2012
My condolences to the Karras family. Rest in peace Hans Braumbaugh!
October 13, 2012
I am sorry to hear about the death of Mr. Karras. He had a great career. I am glad everyone is looking at the dangers of football. I hope the family and friends continue to rely up on our heavenly Father for comfort and to give every one a measurement of pease.
October 12, 2012
I remember Alex Karras as a good actor and a cool football player. His role as Mongo in Blazing Saddles was a good role for him. R.I.P. Alex Karras.
Barbara Hamann
October 12, 2012
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the Karras Family.May his memory be eternal!!!
As a Greek American that was not preveldege to watch him on the grid Iron.I enjoyed Alex very much on Webster!!!
Nectarios ILiakostas
October 12, 2012
A good pleasant. My husband and I owned 15th Ave Pharmacy in Gary, In. way back when.
We watch Alex as often as we could. Prayers and sympathy to his family.
Deanie Kaplan
October 12, 2012
I watched Mr. Karras for years, both football and the movies. A great loss has darkened this day. My sympathy goes out to the Karras family. He will be missed.
Cody Thompson
October 12, 2012
I send my condolences to the family of this dearly beloved one. Losing a family member is not easy for anyone but may the god of comfort be with you.
October 12, 2012
My Deepest Sympathy to the family of Alex Karras. I'm sorry for your loss. Alex was a friend of mine years ago,fishing on his and my boat the Memory Maker at Channel Islands Harbor. Also I remember the wonderful time we had in Florida fishing with Katie and Peter. He will be deeply missed.

Fred Long (Simi Valley Ca.)
October 12, 2012
I pray that God will provide strength and comfort for his family and close friends,
earle w.
October 12, 2012
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow
Ronj Carroll
October 12, 2012
Recalling Alex and Paul Karras who both represented Emerson and Gary with style. Alex loved my mom's apple pie and would usually have 1/2 at one sitting. He was a good friend to Dick Mason & Woody Stafford long ago. He came from a great family .Blessings on the folks he has left behind for now.
Beth MasonMackey
October 12, 2012
Karras Family,
I wish to express my condolences for your loss. May you find comfort in God's promise in Isa.33:24. There it says 'no one will say I am sick.'

My deepest sympathy,
October 12, 2012
My condolences to the Karras' family. My fondest memory of Alex Karras was watching the television show "Webster". May God comfort you in the your darkest hours and difficult days ahead. God Bless....
October 12, 2012
God bless you, rest in peace.
Mary Jane Thornton
October 12, 2012
You will be missed Uncle Alex - Thank you for being a trailblazer for the Karras'You took chances and made great things happen!
Ted Karras, Jr.
October 12, 2012
I met my Wife due to you and I thank you.My future Wife came up to me and said"you look like the Father from Webster and I think he's handsome". Rest in peace and thank you for 25 years of happiness.
October 12, 2012
Condolences to the Karras family -

May the God of all comfort be with each of you during this difficult time and the days ahead.
October 12, 2012
i really liked mr. karras, i enjoyed him when he was on the talk shows years ago. he was a very funny man with a good sense of humor. i liked him in the movies and an tv. i am very sorry to his famiy for their loss.
joan lindmeier
October 12, 2012

My deepest sympathy to the family of Alex Karras. I watched him play football and in his television series Webster and Blazing saddle. He was such a funny actor and his personality made a lot of people happy. Alex is resting peacefully now waiting for his name to be called to come out. He will hear that call and come out to see his loved ones again. (John.11:43,44)

[email protected]
Betty Fowler
October 12, 2012
I never met Alex, but am fortunate to be friends with his nephews, Ted Jr., Tony and Jeff and from knowing them I feel like I knew Alex. Alex Karras was a boyhood hero and one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with football back in the '60s. Sincere condolences to the entire Karras family. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Rest in Peace big guy.
Chris Lannin
October 12, 2012
What a wonderful man We shall not see the likes of him again
Larelle Carver
October 12, 2012
Loved and appreciated Alex Karras for over 50 years. What a great guy!!! Thanks for all the memories.
October 12, 2012
I opened the paper this morning while waiting on my coffee brewing and saw that Alex had passed away ....I was truly saddened by the news. I enjoyed watching him through all his careers...a gentle giant that spoke softly but carried a mighty big stick on the gridiron and a terrific comedic actor and fun on Monday night football. Thoughts and prayers to the Karras family.
Ralph Mandel
October 12, 2012
may he rest in peace always~~such a fine person and actor, he will be missed!!!
GJO, San Antonio, Tx
October 12, 2012
I really enjoyed him as the father on Webster. I am sorry to hear about your loss. Keep these wonderful memories close to your heart.
October 12, 2012
Prayers go out to the family. He was a great man. Use to watch Webster and loved the show. God Bless
joyce turner
October 12, 2012
Robbie Karas
October 12, 2012
heaven is getting a great angel
October 12, 2012
Really enjoyed watching him play for the Lions. Also enjoyed watching him act on TV and in the movies. He seemed like someone whom you would want as your best friend. He had a great sence on humor and I enjoyed reading his books.Susan and family...your in my thoughts and glad that you two were able to make the movie about "Babe" together!
Robert Singer
October 12, 2012
Rest in peace, Alex. "Mungo" will never be forgotten.
Roger Bishop
October 12, 2012
Showing 1 - 100 of 472 results