We’ve lost another ’80s sitcom legend. Alex Karras, 1960s football legend-turned-Webster-star, died at age 77 of kidney failure this morning in his Los Angeles home. The former Detroit Lions defensive tackle was one of the first big (literally) football players to parlay his size and charisma into a successful acting career. While still playing for the Lions, he played himself in the 1968 movie Paper Lions, and after being retired from the team, he ventured into TV, working for Monday Night Football from 1974-76. That’s when he also found a new set of fans for playing Mongo in Mel Brooks‘ Blazing Saddles.
And then in 1983, he was welcomed by an entirely new generation of TV viewers when he and real-life wife Susan Clark played the adoptive parents to adorable Emmanuel Lewis in Webster.
Earlier this year, Karras joined other former players in a lawsuit against the NFL, charging that the organization failed to protect him from multiple concussions which he blamed for his dementia. His attorney also told the Associated Press today that Karras suffered from cancer as well. He is survived by his wife and children, George, Alex Jr., Peter and Katie.