His rendering of his own roguish personality led to several appearances on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,” and in the 1970s he played numerous guest roles on series television, on shows like “McMillan & Wife,” “Love, American Style,” “M*A*S*H” and “The Odd Couple,” in which he played a comically threatening man-mountain, the jealous husband of a woman who had become friendly with Felix (Tony Randall). Perhaps most memorably, he played Mongo, a hulking subliterate outlaw who delivers a knockout punch to a horse, in the Mel Brooks Western spoof “Blazing Saddles.”
In 1975 he played George Zaharias, the husband of the champion track star and golfer Babe Didrikson Zaharias, in the television movie “Babe.” The title role was played by Susan Clark, who became his wife, and from 1983 to 1989, they starred together in the gentle sitcom “Webster,” about a retired football player who takes in a black boy (Emmanuel Lewis), the orphaned young son of a former teammate.
But Karras, at 6 feet 2 inches and 248 pounds — large then but smaller in comparison with today’s N.F.L. linemen — first earned fame as a ferocious tackle for the Lions. He anchored the defensive line for 12 seasons over 13 years, 1958 to 1970.
Karras was an awesome character, and you would be surprised at how much he did. The full article does a terrific job of listing his acting and sports credentials. Some I never knew, many I had long forgotten. He was settling down and relatively quiet by the time I was born. What I will always remember him for are the Johnny Carson appearances. He had so much charisma, and was ruthlessly and fearlessly honest. He may not have always been popular, but he had a strict zero-tolerance policy for BS.
I'll miss the old guy.