SBD/October 10, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Former NFLer Alex Karras, Known For Memorable Hollywood Roles, Dies At 77

Former Lions All-Pro ALEX KARRAS died this morning at the age of 77 due to kidney failure. He played from ’58-70 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the ’60s. Funeral services are pending (Lions). In Detroit, Dave Birkett notes Karras “had battled cancer and dementia.” He also was “part of a large group of former players suing the NFL for head trauma” (FREEP.com, 10/10).

LEAVING HIS MARK IN HOLLYWOOD: ESPN’s Trey Wingo said few players have “made the transition from the fields of the NFL to the bright lights of Hollywood better” than Karras. Wingo: “As dominant as he was on the field, Karras’ true claim to fame came after his playing days.” He starred in the ‘80s television show “WEBSTER” and said “one of the greatest lines in movie history” in MEL BROOKS’ film “BLAZING SADDLES” when he said, “Mongo only pawn in game of life” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/10). The FREE PRESS’ Birkett notes Karras “played himself in the 1968 film ‘PAPER LION,’ based on GEORGE PLIMPTON’s book about his training camp tryout” with the Lions. In addition to “Blazing Saddles,” Karras “took another memorable turn as a crooked sheriff” in the ’82 release “PORKY'S.” He also served as an analyst on “MNF” from ’74-76 alongside HOWARD COSELL and FRANK GIFFORD. His famously said after seeing steam rise from the Raiders’ OTIS SISTRUNK that Sistrunk was from the “University of Mars” (FREEP.com, 10/10). Lions President TOM LEWAND in a statement earlier this week said, “Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex” (AP, 10/10).

SUSPENSION ONLY BLEMISH: In a special to SI.com, Len Pasquarelli notes the “most notable blemish” during Karras’ playing career was when then-NFL Commissioner PETE ROZELLE suspended Karras and PAUL HORNUNG for the ’63 season “after they admitted to betting on NFL games.” Karras “spent some of the year-long suspension wrestling” (SI.com, 10/10). In L.A., Sam Farmer notes after returning to the Lions in ’64, Karras “poked fun at his own reputation, once refusing when a referee asked him to call the pregame coin toss” (LATIMES.com, 10/10).
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