SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

October 11, 2012

Alex Karras, former NFL lineman, actor, dies at 77

DETROIT — Alex Karras was a man of many roles.

Fearsome NFL defensive lineman. Lovable TV dad. Hilarious big-screen cowboy.

And in the end, a dementia victim who blamed the NFL for his illness along with thousands of former players in lawsuits accusing the league of not doing enough to protect them from the long-term effects of head injuries.

The 77-year-old Karras, who managed to be tough, touching and tragic in the span of a lifetime, died yesterday at his Los Angeles home surrounded by family members, said Craig Mitnick, Karras’ attorney.

Karras was one of the NFL’s most ferocious — and best — defensive tackles for the Detroit Lions from 1958-70, bulling past offensive lineman and hounding quarterbacks.

The charismatic bruiser went into acting after his football career, and in his signature scene dropped a horse with a punch as the soft-hearted outlaw Mongo in the 1974 comedy “Blazing Saddles.” He also portrayed the father in the 1980s sitcom “Webster,” along with his actress-wife Susan Clark, and was in the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth along the way.

“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.

Born in Gary, Ind., Karras starred for four years at Iowa and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Detroit drafted him with the 10th overall pick in 1958, and he was a three-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the franchise.

He was the heart of the Lions’ defensive front that terrorized quarterbacks. The Lions handed the champion Green Bay Packers their only defeat in 1962, a 26-14 upset on Thanksgiving during which they harassed quarterback Bart Starr constantly.

Packers guard Jerry Kramer wrote in his diary of the 1967 season about his trepidation over having to face Karras.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Bandits hit 2 Beverly banks over 2 days

    BEVERLY -- Brazen robbers hit two Beverly banks in less than 24 hours. A man was arrested in connection with Tuesday's robbery, while the suspect in yesterday's incident remains at large, police said. It has been some time since this North Shore city

    April 17, 2014

  • 140416_SN_KYU_BAKER_3 Time to raise our game SALEM -- Swampscott Republican Charlie Baker has worked in state government for years, had success in the private sector and ran for governor in 2010. But the question he hears most on the campaign trail: Why does he want to run again? Baker said he

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Marblehead temple to drop mandatory dues MARBLEHEAD -- It might be a sacred space, but even the house of God gets bills. Temples have traditionally paid those bills by charging mandatory dues for membership -- dues that could run into thousands of dollars a year. Now Temple Emanu-El has la

    April 17, 2014

  • North Shore residents to run in 2014 Boston Marathon

    The Salem News asked those on the North Shore who are running this year's Boston Marathon to share their reasons for running. 

    If you're running the marathon this year, it's not too late to share why you're running. Send a brief paragraph, a photo of yourself and a link to your fundraising site (if applicable) to Cheryl Lecesse at clecesse@salemnews.com.

    April 4, 2014

  • Hunters call for an end to Sunday ban BOSTON -- Mike Prendergast likes spending time outdoors, hiking through the wilderness, sleeping under the stars, and taking aim with his compound bow on white-tailed deer and wild turkey from his perch in a tree. Working more than 50 hours a week as

    April 17, 2014