Alex Karras was one of those rare people in life who enjoyed significant success in more than one field. He was one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen of his era, and then went on to a productive and entertaining career as an actor.
Karras died Wednesday of kidney failure at age 77.
University of Hawaii vice president and acting athletic director Rockne Freitas knew him well and counted Karras as a “good friend.” They were teammates on the Detroit Lions from Freitas’ rookie season of 1968 to 1970, which was Karras’ last.
“I studied him every minute of every day,” said Freitas, who was an offensive tackle. “He was the best pass rusher from the defensive tackle position that I’ve ever seen. He was incredibly quick and had all the moves. He was so quick he could throw two or three moves at the offensive guard before the guard could engage him. Shuffle, skip, feint a head slap, then come back with a double head slap.
“One game that stands out was my rookie year when we played Green Bay. We won, and Vince Lombardi said Alex was the reason why. He had five or six solo sacks, beating Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg. He was beating Kramer so badly that they moved Gregg over, and he beat him, too.
“He was a fantastic player. I didn’t line up against him much in practice, but there was a short-yardage drill one day that he was on the outside. I was thinking, ‘I’m gonna knock out Alex.’ But he was so quick. Before I could get to him he disappeared.”
“He was good friends with (quarterback) Bill Munson. When I was a rookie once in awhile they’d invite me to join them for a beer. Just once in awhile. Eventually we became good friends.”