Alex Karras, who was a star defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions in the 1960s and went on to gain other fame for his acting in Hollywood's Blazing Saddles and TV's Webster, has died, according to multiple reports.
He was 77 and had been suffering from kidney failure, as People magazine earlier reported. His death has been reported to The Associated Press by Karras' attorney, Craig Mitnick, and to USA Today by the Lions.
The Associated Press reminds us that:
"Karras became a bit of a celebrity through George Plimpton's behind-the-scenes book about what it was like to be an NFL player in the Motor City, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-string Quarterback. That led to Karras playing himself in the movie adaption, and it opened doors for him such as being an analyst alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on Monday Night Football.
"Karras had a well-known appearance as Mongo in the 1974 movie Blazing Saddles and was a star in the 1980s sitcom Webster. He took on another role this year as lead plaintiff in a complaint against the NFL by ex-players who claim the league didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries."
IMDB.com has cataloged Karras' acting career here. For those of us who were young and enjoyed director Mel Brooks' movies back in the '70s, his performance as Mongo in Blazing Saddles is some classic comedy. If you haven't seen his most famous moment from that movie in a while, there's a clip of it here (and, no, we're not endorsing the punching of horses).
Karras missed the 1963 NFL season. He and the Green Bay Packers' Paul Hornung "were suspended by [Commissioner] Pete Rozelle for betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers," as ESPN writes.
Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. Daughter Confirms The News:
"Tom McInerney, owner of McInerney's Woodhaven Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and a friend of Karras since the 1950s, said he heard the news [of the death] from Karras' daughter, Katie," the Detroit News reports.
Update at 11:05 a.m. ET. A "Bull-Necked Defensive Tackle" Who Was "Ahead Of His Time As A Multimedia Personality."
The Detroit Free Press begins its appreciation of Karras with this:
"Alex Karras, a bull-necked defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions who chased NFL quarterbacks on muddy fields more than 50 years ago but was ahead of his time as a multimedia personality, died today in Los Angeles. He was 77 and had been suffering from dementia and kidney failure.
"Karras never slowed down after a 13-year NFL career — he was suspended one season for gambling — turning to an acting career he'd built in previous off-seasons. He appeared in movies, TV shows and commercials, and spent three years (1974-76) in the Monday Night Football booth, once declaring, 'I'm the bridge between Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford. I'm there to have a little fun.' "