Alex Karras dead at 77

Alex Karras (the former Detroit Lions All-Pro defensive tackle and later a successful actor) died on October 10. I have vivid memories of him before he ever gained immortality as “Mongo” in “Blazing Saddles” or as the stepdad of “Webster.”
Karras was a star on the great Detroit Lions defenses of the early 1960′s—a unit that included four Hall-of-Famers: middle linebacker Joe Schmidt and defensive backs Night Train Lane, Dick LeBeau, and Yale Lary, all three of whom were in the top five for career interceptions at the time they retired. This defense led the way to one of the greatest moments in Detroit sports history—“The Thanksgiving Day Massacre” of 1962.
The Packers’ record was 10-0 when they came to Detroit for the annual Thanksgiving Day game 50 seasons ago. Featuring 10 future Hall of Fame players and the incomparable Vince Lombardi as coach, the mighty Packers had crushed all their opponents—except for the Lions, whom they had squeaked past, 9:7, in their first matchup in Green Bay.

Alex Karras dead at 77
Alex Karras.

Alex Karras, a bull-necked defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions who chased NFL quarterbacks on muddy fields more than 50 years ago but was ahead of his time as a multimedia personality, died early Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. He was 77.
The Detroit Lions confirmed his death to USA TODAY Sports.
“After a heroic fight with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and for the last two years, stomach cancer, Alex Karras … died at his home in Los Angeles early this morning, surrounded by family” – the Karras family said in a statement released by the Lions.
Pat Studstill, Karras’ friend and former teammate with the Lions, lived in Los Angeles near Karras for the past 30 years. He visited Karras on Tuesday morning but said his friend was heavily medicated and appeared to be in coma.
“I just broke up” – Studstill said. “I couldn’t keep it together. I whispered in his ear that I was there and Katie, his daughter, said, ‘He hears you.’ But I know he didn’t.
“It’s just a terrible, terrible thing. I’m glad I got to go, though, to see him. It was so sad. The big lummox. He’s one of the sweetest guys you’d ever meet.”

Sandy (67) is retiring Nov. 1 after 13 years as Nebraska representative for the football helmet-maker Riddell. Especially with greater focus in recent years on concussions, he said, helmet companies have spent millions on research to provide greater protection.
“The technology has skyrocketed the past seven or eight years” – he said. “The problem is that players keep getting bigger, faster and stronger.”
Playing both ways for the University of Kansas in the 1960′s, Buda caught four passes in the second half at Colorado — or so he learned. He had been “dinged” and has no memory of it. “They tell me I didn’t know where to line up in the huddle.”
Other than normal aches, he said, he feels good and plans to stay busy.
Karras, who was 77, suffered from dementia and was one of many plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit charging that the National Football League hadn’t done enough to protect players.

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