The family of Alex Karras waited 45 years for this call from Canton
Carolyn Karras had long ago given up hope.
She believed her father Alex had been a Hall-of-Fame football player with the Detroit Lions -- but that was five decades ago. There have been 57 classes in Pro Football Hall-of-Fame history. Karras had been an eligible candidate for 44 of them but never a finalist for any of them.
“I knew he was in the Hall of Fame anyway…just without all the hoopla,” Carolyn said. “I knew his career, and I knew his numbers. But if he couldn’t get in, he couldn’t get in. So I just pretended he was in.”
Carolyn, 53, never tried to generate a campaign for her dad’s induction. She didn’t know how or where to start. Then she got a sign – word of a special “Centennial” class for the Hall of Fame in 2020.
“He was in the mini-series `Centennial,’” Carolyn said. “So that was a sign for me that this could be the year. It was a `centennial’ class.”
Karras played 12 seasons with the Lions and collected a franchise-record 97 ½ sacks. But Detroit never won a championship, and Karras managed to play in only one playoff game – the final game of his career, a 5-0 NFC semifinal loss to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970.
Karras retired and moved to California where he pursued a second career in acting – a career that actually started during his playing days in 1968 in the movie “Paper Lion.” Author George Plimpton went to training camp with the Lions and wrote a book about his experiences as a last-string quarterback – a book that later became a movie featuring Karras and a number of his teammates.
Karras appeared in several movies after his relocation to California, including “Blazing Saddles," and made several guest television appearances before landing his own weekly show “Webster” in 1983. His appearance in the miniseries “Centennial” in 1978 was a springboard to his starring role in Webster.
But his football career – and his hopes for a bust in Canton – were left behind in Detroit.
“I wanted him to get it,” Carolyn said of that bust in Canton, “but I didn’t think they’d ever vote for him. I really didn’t.”
Then came the Centennial Class and the announcement on the NFL Network Wednesday morning that Alex Karras would indeed be a member of that class. Finally. But it will be a posthumous honor. Karras passed away in 2012.
“I really can’t wrap my mind around it,” said Carolyn, who still lives in Michigan. “I kind of walked around in a daze. There were a lot of phone calls, lots of texts and lots of commotion. It’s been surreal.”
Carolyn has four brothers – Alex, Peter, George and Rennie. George was named after Plimpton.
“My brothers were more frustrated (over the years) than I was because they were men,” Carolyn said. “They were kind of bitter. And a lot of men that I’ve talked to have said, `It’s about time.’ But my feeling is it happened. I’m a positive person. This is never going to happen to us for the rest of our lives. Let’s enjoy it.”
And the Karras family will. And many more. Expect a big turnout in Canton for the long-awaited induction of Alex Karras into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“His fans are slobbering right now,” Carolyn said. “He had a huge fan base and still does. They are so elated for this. I’m happy for everybody.”