Fans of the classic 80s television show will be sad to learn that Alex Karras, the man who played Webster's dad, has only days to live due to kidney failure. The actor and former NFL football player has also been suffering from dementia over the last several years.
Karras was originally known for his athleticism on the field while playing for the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons. He joined the team in 1958, after he was drafted out of Iowa. In a move unusual to sports fans today, he played his entire career with the same team and retired in 1970 at the age of 35.
Now 77 years old, the former athlete is part of a massive lawsuit against the NFL in regard to the treatment of head injuries. There are over 2,000 players involved in the suit, including Jim McMahon and Shaun Gayle of the Chicago Bears and Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders.
Karras started his acting career even before he left football, playing himself in the 1968 film Paper Lion. After leaving the gridiron, he moved seamlessly over to Hollywood, with probably his most famous movie role being Mongo in the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles. Also in 1974, he became a TV sports announcer in the early days of Monday Night Football, and a decade later, he took his most famous TV role as George Papadapolis on Webster. The series — which also starred Emmanuel Lewis and Karras' real-life wife, Susan Clark — lasted for six seasons.
The Detroit Lions' president, Tom Lewand, released a statement praising Alex's skills on and off of the field, saying, "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. Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex."
Karras has been released from the hospital and is spending his last days at home, surrounded by family and friends.
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