Karras died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, his attorney said. He had recently suffered kidney failure.
"Alex was known to family and friends as a gentle, loving, generous man who loved gardening and preparing Greek and Italian feasts," his family said in a statement.
Karras, who grew up in Gary, Ind., first gained fame in the NFL. The Detroit Lions drafted Karras 10th overall in 1958 out of the University of Iowa. He went on to become a four-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the franchise.
Karras may be even better known for his work as an actor. In addition to his role as the loveable father George Papadapolis on "Webster," he was also in "Blazing Saddles," where he not only slugged a horse but also delivered the classic line: "Mongo only pawn in game of life." Karras also played a sheriff in the comedy "Porky's" in the 1980s.
"I had a very heavy heart this morning and I did not know why. I understand now," said Emmanuel Lewis, who played Karras' adoptive son in "Webster." "Rest in peace, my friend."
"Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex," Lions president Tom Lewand said.
In the end, he had been suffering from dementia and was among the more than 3,500 NFL players suing the league regarding the treatment of head injuries.
Recently, his wife, Susan Clark, said Karras' quality of life has deteriorated because of head injuries sustained during his NFL career.
In addition to Clark, his wife of 37 years, he is survived by their daughter and his four children from his first marriage to the late Joan Powell.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.