Alex Karras -- a star who successfully straddled the worlds of sports and show business -- died on Wednesday in Los Angeles, his attorney told the Associated Press. The actor and football star was 77, and recently suffered kidney failure.
Karras first became famous in the 1960s as a lineman for the Detroit Lions. Following his NFL retirement at age 35 in 1970, he became both a Monday Night Football analyst and a Hollywood actor. In addition to film roles in Paper Lion, Blazing Saddles and Victor Victoria, his most notable turn was on the 80s sitcom Webster, in which he and real-life wife Susan Clark played the adoptive parents to a young African-American boy (played by the late Emmanuel Lewis).
"Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement.
"We know Alex first and foremost as one of the cornerstones to our Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the 1960s and also as one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL . . . Many others across the country came to know Alex as an accomplished actor and as an announcer during the early years of 'Monday Night Football."
In his later years, Karras was among the many football players who suffered as a result of head injuries sustained during his athletic career; he was diagnosed with dementia several years ago and joined other players who sued the NFL.
"This physical beating that he took as a football player has impacted his life, and therefore it has impacted his family life," wife Clark told the Associated Press earlier this year. "He is interested in making the game of football safer and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement."
His attorney noted that Karras was surrounded by family when he passed away Wednesday morning.