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Ex-Lion Alex Karras given days to live

alexkarras AP

Alex Karras, who played defensive line for the Lions and later found even greater fame as an actor, is reportedly suffering from kidney failure and near death.

After reports surfaced on Monday night that the 77-year-old Karras was given only days to live, Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement expressing concern from the team.

The entire Detroit Lions family is deeply saddened to learn of the news regarding the condition of one of our all-time greats, Alex Karras,” Lewand said. “Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex.”

An Outland Trophy winner at Iowa who has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Karras was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 1958 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s. After retiring Karras went into acting, where he was best known for playing Mongo in Blazing Saddles and George on the sitcom Webster.

Karras has been in bad health for several years, and he is one of the thousands of former players suing the NFL over brain injuries.

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33 Responses to “Ex-Lion Alex Karras given days to live”
  1. fievel03 says: Oct 9, 2012 11:33 AM

    Damn. Best wishes to Alex, his family, and his friends.

  2. mazblast says: Oct 9, 2012 11:34 AM

    Mongo sad.

  3. Mr. Wright 212 says: Oct 9, 2012 11:37 AM

    Godspeed.

  4. oldassgoat says: Oct 9, 2012 11:38 AM

    Remember him better as “Mongo” in Blazing Saddles! Loved him in that role. God Bless You, Alex.

  5. detroitnorth says: Oct 9, 2012 11:39 AM

    Love, Light and Peace to Alex and his family.

  6. godofwine330 says: Oct 9, 2012 12:12 PM

    I was one who criticized “The well dressed” Imani Toomer on Sirius back in May when he knew little of this man and what he brought to the game. The Late Steve Sabol brought players like Karras into my living room on a weekly basis teaching me the game. Karras was one of the baddest defensive linemen in the history of the NFL. He played in an era before sacks were noted, so it would be difficult to impossible to compare him to the players of today or even the players of 20 years ago.

    He seems to be on his way out, so all I can do is hope that the final leg of his journey to the afterlife is peaceful and as painless as possible.

  7. nflhof says: Oct 9, 2012 12:16 PM

    As a young lad I visited the Lions training camp at Cranbrook in the early 70’s. Mr Karras approached my father and I and took the time to speak with us about the team and football. I will always remember that and from that day on he has been my favorite Lion. He is a true champion in my eyes. Hope he gets better someway somehow.

  8. dgforreal says: Oct 9, 2012 12:28 PM

    Never got a chance to see him play, but he was a part of my childhood from Webster. Sad sad news.

  9. CKL says: Oct 9, 2012 12:33 PM

    What a sad story. I’d rather get run over by a bus than go through what he’s and his family is going through with dementia. I hope they can all find some sort of peace.

  10. thepragmaticcowboy says: Oct 9, 2012 12:33 PM

    “Mongo only pawn in game of life.” – Farewell, Alex.

  11. knackstermyea says: Oct 9, 2012 1:01 PM

    Hope your last few day’s are peaceful and your family can be by your side at this most difficult time. Prayers to you and your family.

  12. larryboodry says: Oct 9, 2012 1:09 PM

    Aw, this is sad…Prayers for him and those he loves.

  13. briang123 says: Oct 9, 2012 1:10 PM

    Amazing how the 1-year suspension he received for betting on NFL games is omitted from every article about him today. Winston Smith is clearly doing his job.

    I did love Mr. Karras in Webster though. May he rest in peace.

  14. coseybedaman says: Oct 9, 2012 1:12 PM

    Its a disgrace that this man isnt in the HOF. Unfortunately once he is gone NOW they will start to seriously consider his induction. Rather than when he can actually enjoy that achievement.

  15. nickpietrosante says: Oct 9, 2012 1:15 PM

    I met Alex Karras at a Red Wings Old Timers Game v.s. Montreal at the old Olympia Stadium back in the day. He was as popular as Mr. Hockey and he was more than gracious in signing autographs for all us star struck kids. Peace be with you Alex.

  16. thestrategyexpert says: Oct 9, 2012 1:21 PM

    One of my dad’s favorite players. I never got to see him play, only perform on Webster and I liked him. Hopefully the Lions will do some kind of tribute to him and show us what he did as a player and other things in his career and life.

  17. birdmantd says: Oct 9, 2012 1:41 PM

    Star athlete, broadcaster, actor who will be remembered for both a raunchy and family comedy. That’s quite an accomplished life. It’s a shame his last years were spent in deteriorating health.

  18. dustinq says: Oct 9, 2012 1:47 PM

    God bless Alex and his family. A great Lion, and from the sounds of things, a great guy.

  19. wozzmann1955 says: Oct 9, 2012 1:57 PM

    I am sure any of the surviving Lombardi era Packers would be able to tell you just how good Alex was.Classic battles in Detroit and Green Bay back in the 60’s

  20. makeham98 says: Oct 9, 2012 2:24 PM

    Watch him playing himself in Paper Lion. Funnier than his later characters. Alan Alda is tough to stomach, be warned. But a fine football movie.

  21. dman6015 says: Oct 9, 2012 2:54 PM

    He’ll be missed. “Candygram for Mongo! Candygram for Mongo!”

  22. jimmylions says: Oct 9, 2012 3:03 PM

    Alex Karras came from that 60s era full of great players who were also interesting characters and great storytellers.

    He played back in an era when what happened between linemen in the trenches was extremely violent and physical – almost all of it is now against the rules. Virtually everything was fair game and virtually nothing was too dirty.

    Karras has said that he could never shake his opponents’ hand after a game. What transpired on the field was too nasty and too personal for gestures of sportsmanship.

    In that context, one of my favorite Karras stories happened when the Lions faced the Packers at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. It was a big game and the Lions brought along their team chaplin to lead their pregame prayer. Karras thought it was hypocritical to ask for god’s help in harming his fellow man in the violence, brutality, and bloodshed that was professional football. In the middle of the team prayer he yelled, “God is Lombardi!”

    He’s a guy I would have loved to have met.

  23. joeinsm says: Oct 9, 2012 3:35 PM

    This is sad news. I loved him in Victor/Victoria. What a charmer. He will be missed.

  24. mrsfudd says: Oct 9, 2012 3:51 PM

    I grew up just outside of Detroit in the 60’s. I remember that Coca Cola bottlecaps had a plastic lining with the pictures of NFL players. I remember that my brother and I had both Alex Karras and Dick Butkis. Alex Karras was one of the greats both on the field and off. He had a great reputation, a loving family and a successful career in football and Hollywood. Younger football players and younger aspiring actors would do well to look to this man as a role model. He will be missed. My prayers to his wife Susan Clark.

  25. ezwriter69 says: Oct 9, 2012 4:00 PM

    Alex Karras was a GREAT player, a strong, quick athletic, aggressive (okay, flat out dirty, read Plimpton’s Paper Tiger), 250 pound defensive tackle who would most certainly be in the Hall if he hadn’t had that little gambling issue. He led IOWA to a national championship and the LIONS to an NFL title, believe it or not.
    Remember him for what and who he was, celebrate his life and his career.
    Hey, he made it to 65 before his brain quit on him, that’s MANY more years than average for an NFL’er of his generation, and WAY older than the bulk of today’s players with long careers will reach before their bodies and brains fail.
    Despite Eric Winston’s protestations to the contrary, it WAS, in Karras’s time, a gladiator show, as of course it still is now; and Alex Karras was as gifted and as fierce as anyone who ever competed in the arena.
    Godspeed, Alex, you were a great one indeed.

  26. jcb6427 says: Oct 9, 2012 4:24 PM

    He still can’t believe Tom Dempsey made that 63 yard field goal. Karras was a great player who was able to continue, after football, and become successful in his second career. His roles in Blazing Saddles, Paper Tiger (George Plimpton’s essay on life within the Lion’s played by Alan Alda), and TV commedy “Webster” were memorable. Sorry to hear of his plight and wish him well. He made an impact on many of us.

  27. mamiller2012 says: Oct 9, 2012 4:40 PM

    A frequent Johnny Carson visitor, his best line came after the New Orleans Saints kicked the NFL record 63-yard field goal against the Lions. Alex’s feelings about the (former soccer) kicking specialists then just becoming popular in the NFL: “I’m goingk to keeck a touchdown!” Classic Karras at his best.

  28. omniusprime says: Oct 9, 2012 5:15 PM

    I’m glad I was fortunate enough to watch Alex Karras play in the NFL with the Lions. His acting wasn’t as good as his football playing but he was an excellent football announcer. My best wishes to Alex and his family!

  29. orangebluedonkey says: Oct 9, 2012 5:24 PM

    This article got me a bit misty. He was a helleva player.

  30. harbourimages says: Oct 9, 2012 6:25 PM

    Very sad. For a wonderful insight into what a great player he was, dust off George Plimpton’s PAPER LION and read the section where a young NFL player who faced Karras first when Alex had a groin injury and made the mistake of saying something like “Karras is a good player, but he doesn’t have the really great moves of some of the better players in the NFL.” This was posted on Karras’ locker prior to the Lions’ next game against that same rookie. During THAT game a healthy Karras ran around, over, under and through the kid, sacking their QB several times. After the game, as only he could, Karras said to the kid, “Well assface, how ya like them moves!” What a terrific player. So sorry to hear this….

  31. 2difshoe says: Oct 9, 2012 6:33 PM

    Left it all out on the field each and every game, and that is what GREAT players do !

    Thanks for the memories, Mr. Karras !

    Peace be with you !

  32. fdugrad says: Oct 9, 2012 10:11 PM

    Showing my age, however though I certainly remember “Mongo,” I remember him as an outstanding player and his role in “Paper Lion.” How fast time passes and how cruel the process.

  33. bucforever says: Oct 10, 2012 9:32 AM

    I just heard the sad news today. My heart and prayers go out to Alex and his family. He will be remembered as a great football player and a wonderful man .

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