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Alex Karras

Alex Karras

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Also Known As: Alexander George Karras Died: October 10, 2012
Born: July 15, 1935 Cause of Death: Kidney Failure
Birth Place: Gary, Indiana, USA Profession: actor, producer, professional football player, writer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Former NFL great Alex Karras made his transition to acting appear almost too easy, only to further defy expectations by taking on roles that skewed away from the tough guy image he had cultivated as a professional athlete. As one of the greatest defensive tackles ever to play the game of football, Karras enjoyed a college career in which he won the Outland Trophy and a Rose Bowl Championship in 1957, followed by an impressive 12-year run with the Detroit Lions. His segue into acting began while he was still with the Lions, when he appeared as himself in the football docudrama "Paper Lion" (1968). After leaving football, Karras began appearing on various TV series and in movies, usually as a hulking bad guy or athlete. With his uproarious turn as the dim-witted man-mountain Mongo in "Blazing Saddles" (1974), he displayed not only a knack for comedy, but a willingness to laugh at himself. Over the course of the next decade he took on diverse roles in a variety of TV and film projects that included a role as a gold prospector in the miniseries "Centennial" (NBC, 1978-79) and a turn as a closeted gay bodyguard in "Victor/Victoria" (1982), opposite Julie Andrews and James Garner. Perhaps his most fondly...

Former NFL great Alex Karras made his transition to acting appear almost too easy, only to further defy expectations by taking on roles that skewed away from the tough guy image he had cultivated as a professional athlete. As one of the greatest defensive tackles ever to play the game of football, Karras enjoyed a college career in which he won the Outland Trophy and a Rose Bowl Championship in 1957, followed by an impressive 12-year run with the Detroit Lions. His segue into acting began while he was still with the Lions, when he appeared as himself in the football docudrama "Paper Lion" (1968). After leaving football, Karras began appearing on various TV series and in movies, usually as a hulking bad guy or athlete. With his uproarious turn as the dim-witted man-mountain Mongo in "Blazing Saddles" (1974), he displayed not only a knack for comedy, but a willingness to laugh at himself. Over the course of the next decade he took on diverse roles in a variety of TV and film projects that included a role as a gold prospector in the miniseries "Centennial" (NBC, 1978-79) and a turn as a closeted gay bodyguard in "Victor/Victoria" (1982), opposite Julie Andrews and James Garner. Perhaps his most fondly remembered television role would be as the adoptive father of Emmanuel Lewis on the family diversity sitcom "Webster" (ABC, 1983-87; syndicated, 1987-89). Whether it was in the character of athlete, hired thug, lawman, or loving father, Karras endeared himself to audiences with performances that displayed surprising heart and humility for a man known early on as one of the hardest hitters in pro football.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Buffalo 66 (1998) The Tv Sportscaster
2.
 Fudge-A-Mania (1995) Big A
5.
 Against All Odds (1984) Hank Sully
6.
 Maid in America (1982) Cal Bullington
7.
 Victor/Victoria (1982) Squash
8.
 Nobody's Perfekt (1981) Swaboda
9.
 Porky's (1981) Sheriff Wallace
10.
 Word of Honor (1981) Manager Supermarket Meat Department (Unbilled)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1956:
Played on Iowa's Rose Bowl team; named Associated Press All-American
1957:
Consensus all-American; won Outland Trophy as outstanding collegiate interior lineman
1957:
Signed a professional wrestling contract; signed with football team the Detroit Lions eight days later
1958:
Played defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions
1963:
Suspended along with Green Bay Packer Paul Hornung for one season by NFL Commisioner Pete Rozelle for betting on football; both Hornung and he bet on their respective teams to win
1964:
Resumed career with Lions, finishing his 12-year pro career with one team
1968:
Made feature film debut (as himself) in "Paper Lion," based on the book by George Plimpton
1970:
Named to Iowa's all-time football team (selected by fans)
1972:
TV-movie debut, "Hardcase" (ABC)
1973:
Played gentle hillbilly weight lifter Hughie Ray Feather in CBS movie "The 500-Pound Jerk"
1974:
Made feature film debut playing character other than himself in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" as Mongo
1974:
Was a regular announcer on ABC's "Monday Night Football"
1975:
Portrayed George Zaharis to future wife Susan Clark's Babe Didrickson in CBS biopic "Babe"
1976:
First credit as executive producer, "Mighty Moose and the Quarterback Kid," an "ABC Afterschool Special"; also starred as football player 'Mighty Moose' Novak
1977:
Played hulking wrestler Iago 'Mad Bull' Karkus in CBS movie "Mad Bull"
1978:
Founded film production company Georgian Bay Productions with Clark
1978:
Acted in epic NBC miniseries "Centennial"
1980:
First offering from Georgian Bay Productions, CBS movie "Jimmy B & Andre"; starred as title character; Clark (who shared executive producing duties) played small role
1980:
Appeared as Jughead Miller in NBC miniseries "Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story"
1981:
With Clark, executive produced the CBS movie "Word of Honor"; made unbilled appearance as Manager of Supermarket Meat Department; Clark did not act
1981:
Portrayed Sherrif Wallace in "Porky's"
1982:
Shone as James Garner's gay bodyguard Squash in Blake Edwards' "Victor/Victoria"
1982:
Executive produced (with Clark) CBS movie "Maid in America"; Clark and he also starred
1983:
Starred opposite Clark as pro football player-turned-sportscaster George Papadopolis, who becomes guardian to his godson "Webster" (ABC); Georgian Bay Productions one of three production companies credited along with Emmanuel Lewis Entertainment and Paramount Television
1984:
Played a football player in Taylor Hackford's "Against All Odds"
1989:
Inducted into National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame
1995:
Acted in "Fudge-A-Mania," a production of "The ABC Family Movie"
1998:
Cast in Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66"
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Education

University of Iowa: Iowa City , Iowa - 1958

Notes

While with the Detroit Lions, selected all-pro defensive tackle in 1960, 1961 and 1965; named to NFL's Pro Bowl team in 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1966

Karras, who was on the field when New Orleans Saints Tom Dempsy hammered his record 63 yard field, said "Dempsy didn't kick the ball, God did. A man couldn't kick it that far."

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Joan Jurgensen. Married in 1958; divorced in 1975.
wife:
Susan Clark. Actor. Married in 1980.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Lou Karras. Physician.
mother:
Emmiline Karras. Registered nurse.
daughter:
Katie Karras. Born on January 31, 1980.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Even Big Guys Cry"
"Alex Karras: My Life in Football, Television, and Movies" Doubleday
"Tuesday Night Football: A Novel" Birch Lane Press

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