“Webster” star Alex Karras, who began his career as a football star for the Detroit Lions, has died, the Associated Press reports. He was 77.
Karras, who was suffering from kidney failure, died at home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, including his wife, Susan Clark, the Canadian actress who also played his fictional wife on Webster, said Karras’s attorney, Craig Mitnick
Born the fourth of six children to a doctor in Gary, Ind., Karras was an all-American at the University of Iowa and played 13 seasons as a bruising defender for the Lions – missing only the 1963 season, when he was suspended for betting on his own team. He also worked occasionally as a professional wrestler in the ’50s and ’60s.
Karras got his first taste of acting by appearing as himself in the 1966 film version of George Plimpton’s “Paper Lion.” Among his Hollywood roles, he appeared in Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles” in 1974 and notably played a closeted gay bodyguard in “Victor Victoria” in 1982. He was also a commentator for three seasons of “Monday Night Football” in the ’70s.
Karras was best known, however, for his role on Webster, playing George Papadopoulos – the adoptive father of Emmanuel Lewis’s title character – from 1983 until 1989.
Karras suffered dementia and cancer in recent years, and was part of the mass concussion lawsuit that more than 3,000 former players have filed against the NFL.
Karras and Clark had one daughter, Katie, now 32. Karras’s first marriage ended in divorce after 18 years and five children.