DETROIT (WWJ) Former Detroit Lions player and TV actor Alex Karras died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles. He was 77.
“On behalf of the William Clay Ford Family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to Susan, the Karras Family and to all of Alex’s friends and fans across the country,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a press release. “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.”
Karras’ family released an obituary saying he “had always dreamed of being an actor and began his acting career while he was with the Detroit Lions.”
“Alex was known to family and friends as a gentle, loving, generous man who loved gardening and preparing Greek and Italian feasts,” his obituary adds. “He began a lifelong commitment to philanthropy starting with his work with the Better Boys Foundation. His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations.”
Karras is survived by his wife of 37 years, Susan Clar; and their daughter, Katherine; by his children, Alex, Jr., Peter, Carolyn, George and Renald from his first marriage to Joan Powell (now deceased). He is also survived by his siblings, Louis, Nan, Paul and Ted, as well as five grandchildren.
Karras was released a few days ago from a California hospital with kidney failure so he could spend his final days with family. He’s one of several players suing the NFL over concussions, claiming the league didn’t do enough to protect them.
“He may be dying of kidney failure because now his body is catching up to the deterioration of his mind,” Craig Mitnick, Karras’ attorney in a lawsuit against the NFL, told The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon.
In his day, Karras was one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. The Detroit Lions drafted Karras 10th overall in 1958 out of Iowa and he was a four-time All-Pro over 12 seasons with the franchise. Karras became a celebrity with a breakout role in “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-String Quarterback.” He was an analyst alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on “Monday Night Football.” In the acting world, he was well known for roles in “Blazing Saddles” and the TV show “Webster.”
His family asks in lieu of flowers, fans send a donation to one of the organizations he supported: Natural Resources Defense Council, Bioneers, Greenpeace Foundation or the Pesticide Action Network.