Alex Karras, suffering from kidney failure, died in his home

Alex Karras

By James Turnage:

I worked for an airline at LAX from 1967 to 1977. I saw and met many actors, actresses, musicians, and professional athletes. One day, as I was walking down the long hallway to the departure area, I was passed by two large men. One was Alex Karras, defensive lineman for the Detroit Tigers. I had only seen him on television, and now I could witness why opposing linemen would have a difficult time controlling his size. He smiled when he knew he was recognized.

Some will remember him more for his role as the adoptive father in the television sitcom “Webster”. Others will remember him as “Mongo” who punched a horse in “Blazing Saddles”. He also received the role of the sheriff in “Porky’s”. Some might also remember him as an analyst for Monday Night Football, alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.

Football fanatics such as myself will remember him for his athleticism on the football field. Detroit drafted him in 1958 out of Iowa. He played for 12 seasons, and was an All-Pro for 4 of them. He was a feared defensive tackle who had several moves, often pushing an opposing lineman into his own quarterback.

On Thanksgiving day in 1962, he was instrumental in leading his team to a victory over the favored Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Bart Starr was harassed throughout the entire game by the overpowering Lion defensive line. The final score was 26-14, and it would be the only loss for the Packers in the season

This past April, Karras was diagnosed with dementia. He joined more than 3500 former players who lobbied the National Football League for safer rules and better equipment to protect the health of its players.

Karras had been suffering from kidney failure. He died in his home, surrounded by family and friends. He was 77 years old.

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