Remembering the Mad Duck, Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions

October 11, 2012

Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, 1971 AP file photo

“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more ‘manhood’ to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.”
~Alex Karras

Yesterday Alex Karras, All-Pro defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions passed away at the age of 77. Karras followed up with a sucessful career as a pro wrestler and as an actor in movies and on TV’s Webster. The New York Times obituary of Alex Karras reads in part:

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.

It was an era when the N.F.L. had abundant talent at the position; Karras’s contemporaries included the Hall of Famers Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. But Karras was an especially versatile pass rusher, known around the league for his combination of strength, speed and caginess. His furious approach — Plimpton described it as a “savage, bustling style of attack” — earned him the nickname the Mad Duck.

“Most defensive tackles have one move, they bull head-on,” Doug Van Horn, a New York Giants offensive lineman who had to block Karras, said in 1969. “Not Alex. There is no other tackle like him. He has inside and outside moves, a bull move where he puts his head down and runs over you, or he’ll just stutter-step you like a ballet dancer.”

Karras was named to four Pro Bowls, and he was a member of the N.F.L’s All-Decade team of the 1960s. He was not elected to the Hall of Fame, however, which has sometimes been attributed to the fact that the Lions fielded mostly undistinguished teams during his tenure. In Karras’s only playoff game, the Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys by the unlikely score of 5-0 in 1970.

Read on at the Times for lots more. Some of my favorite Karras items:

One Response to “Remembering the Mad Duck, Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions”


  1. [...] We lost some notable Michiganians in 2012 including First Lady Helen Milliken, boxing legend Emmanuel Steward and Detroit Lion great Alex Karras. [...]


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