Monster M*A*S*H
Alex Karras
Alex Karras appeared as Lance Cpl. Lyle Wesson in the Season 3 M*A*S*H episode "Springtime".
Personal Information
Gender: Male
Height 6'2"
Weight 248 lbs.
Born: (1935-07-15)July 15, 1935
Birthplace Gary, Indiana, U.S.
Died: October 10, 2012(2012-10-10) (aged 77)
Deathplace Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Actor, Athlete, TV host & personality
Years active: 1958-2012
Spouse(s): Susan Clark, 1980-2012, his death
Character information
Appeared on/in: M*A*S*H
Episodes appeared in: "Springtime" in Season 3
Character(s) played: Lance Cpl. Lyle Wesson

Alexander George "Alex" Karras (July 15, 1935 – October 10, 2012) was an American football player and actor. After an illustrious professional football career with the NFL's Detroit Lions, Karras became an actor. He was best known for his role on the long-running sitcom Webster and as the monstrous Mongo in the film Blazing Saddles. In 1985, he appeared in a prime-time commercial for the Transformers toyline.

Early life[]

Karras was the son of Dr. George Karras, a Greek immigrant (from Chios) who graduated from the University of Chicago and got his medical degree in Canada. There, George Karras met and married a Canadian woman, Alex's mother, Emmeline (née Wilson). George Karras opened a medical practice in Gary, Indiana, but he died when Alex was thirteen years old. By that time, Alex Karras had learned to play football in a parking lot near his home, and he blossomed into a four-time Indiana all-state selection at Gary Emerson High School.

His older brothers, Lou (a future member of the Redskins) and Ted (who later played with the Bears and Lions), had played at Purdue but later Ted transferred to Indiana. Because of this, Alex said, "Indiana had the inside track" on recruiting him, but shortly after he graduated from high school, several coaches from the University of Iowa took Karras to secluded Spencer, Iowa, to keep him away from rival recruiters. There they persuaded him to sign with the Hawkeyes.

NFL playing career[]

Karras was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions in 1958. He quickly became one of the dominant defensive tackles in the NFL, playing for 12 seasons (1958-1962, 1964-1970) with the same team, but missing the 1963 season for gambling activities. From 1960 to 1966, except for 1963, he played next to Roger Brown, a formidable pair of defensive tackles, until the latter was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. From 1958 to 1970, the Lions were over .500 six of the 13 years, making the playoffs only once, 1970, with a 10-4 win-loss record, Karras' final year. Aside from 1970, their best years were 1962 (11-3) and 1969 (9-4-1). In 1962, the Lion defense allowed 177 points (12.6 points/game), in 1969 188 points (13.4 points/game), and in 1970 202 points (14.4 points/game), for all three years the second-least in the NFL, thanks in large part to a tough and rugged defensive line led by Karras. Despite not allowing a touchdown in the divisional round of the 1970-71 NFL playoffs, the Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys 5-0, his first playoff game and his final game.

Karras was called an "iron man" since he missed only one game due to injury in his 12 NFL seasons and his 161 games played are the 15th most in Lions history. He made the Pro Bowl four times, and the Hall of Fame named him a member of the 1960s All-Decade team.[1]

Film and television career[]

In 1968, Alex made his film debut playing himself in the film adaptation of George Plimpton's nonfiction sports book Paper Lion, in which he appeared with film co-star Alan Alda and Lauren Hutton.[2]

Following his release by the Lions in 1971 - his appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and a bit part in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the farewell party scene where Rhoda moves back to New York (1972) - he began acting on a full-time basis, playing a Tennessee boy turned Olympic weightlifter named Hugh Ray Feather in 1973's The 500-Pound Jerk. He played a hulking villain who menaced Clint Walker in the ABC TV film Hardcase. A minor but memorable role came one year later in the western parody Blazing Saddles (1974): the very strong and slow-witted thug Mongo, who rode into town on a huge brahma (marked with "yes" and "no" passing signals), knocked out horse with one punch, and famously responded to a question from Sheriff Bart with, "Don't know..." (looking straight into the camera) "...Mongo only pawn in game of life." That same year, he was quickly brought in by ABC to replace Fred Williamson as a commentator for the network's Monday Night Football. He served three years in that role until leaving after the 1976 NFL season, with his most memorable comment coming in his first game, when he joked that bald Oakland Raiders' lineman Otis Sistrunk, who never attended college, was from "the University of Mars".[3]

Personal life[]

Karras was married twice. He married Joan Jurgensen in 1958, with whom he had five children. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975. He married actress Susan Clark on March 21, 1980, and they had a daughter, Katie Karras.[4][5]

Illness and death[]

In his later years, Karras suffered several serious health problems, including dementia, heart disease, and cancer.[6]

Karras was among 3,500 former NFL players to have filed lawsuits against the NFL in early 2012, over the long-term damage caused by concussions and repeated hits to the head.[7]

On October 8, 2012, it was revealed by friend Tom McInerney that Karras had suffered from kidney failure; doctors gave him a few days to live. Karras was treated at the Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, before being released into hospice care. After returning to his Los Angeles home with family, Karras died in the morning hours of October 10 from complications caused by kidney failure.[8]


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