Gary native Alex Karras, who played for the struggling Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970, is currently in hospice care at his home in Hollywood Hills, Calif., nephew Jeff Karras said Monday night.
"Whenever the word 'hospice' comes in ... and all his immediate family is gathering out there," Jeff Karras said. "It's real sad. He's had such a great life.
"He's a very intelligent person and there was no mistake or luck involved with him achieving what he's been able to achieve."
Alex Karras grew up in Gary, where his father had a medical practice. He played football at Emerson High School and later signed with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
He starred at defensive tackle for the lowly Lions from 1958 to 1970 and played every down as if it were his last. He even made the 1964 cover of Sports Illustrated.
The 77-year-old Karras has suffered from a variety of health problems recently, including cancer and dementia, and was part of the mass concussion lawsuit filed by more than 3,000 former NFL players.
"I heard it's a kidney (failure) problem and he's not a good candidate for dialysis because of the chemo for his cancer," Jeff Karras said.
"The last time I saw him in the spring, I was able to delve into some conversations that led me to realize how smart, how gifted, and what a great personality he had."
Alex Karras gained Hollywood notoriety when he played the slow-witted Mongo and punched out a horse in Mel Brooks' 1974 cult classic 'Blazing Saddles.'
"I'm glad he's not suffering but I sure as hell am going to miss going out there and sitting in those hills, listening to him talk," Jeff Karras said. "God, I'm going to miss him so much."