DETROIT (AP) -- He was one of the NFL's most feared defensive tackles throughout the 1960s, but to many people, Alex Karras will always be the cowboy who punched a horse in "Blazing Saddles" or the lovable dad from the sitcom "Webster."
Karras died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was 77.
He had recently suffered kidney failure and been diagnosed with dementia. His former team, the Detroit Lions, says he also had heart disease and stomach cancer.
In April, Karras joined more than 3,500 football veterans suing the NFL for not doing enough to protect them from head injuries.
His wife, actress Susan Clark, says Karras' quality of life had deteriorated in recent years because of head injuries he sustained during his playing career. She says he had to give up driving and couldn't remember recipes for some of the favorite Italian and Greek dishes he used to cook.
Karras starred for four years at Iowa and was drafted in 1958 by Detroit, where he was a four-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the franchise.
In his second career, Karras also had roles in "Porky's," "Against All Odds" and "Victor/Victoria."
(Copyright 2012, The Associated Press)