In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the best defensive lineman and wildest character in Lions’ history.
13. Alex Karras
Defensive Tackle. 1958-62, 1964-71 Detroit
The best defensive lineman in Lions’ history, Karras was the team’s number-one draft choice out of the University of Iowa in 1958. He was a two-time All-American, and won the Outland Trophy in 1957 as the nation’s top lineman. The 6-foot-2, 248 pound Karras was on the small side even during his time. He made up for it however with exceptional quickness and agility. While most defensive tackles are told to take on blockers and hold their ground in the pit, Karras’s talents allowed him to side-step blocks and still make the play. In addition Alex was a student of the game, using film to dissect his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, later using them to his advantage. Jerry Kramer, the great Green Bay Packer guard and long time Karras foe, mentioned Alex often in his famous diary-turned-book, “Instant Replay.”
“Playing against Karras is like playing a chess game.” Kramer wrote, “If you try to pop him, he’ll beat you like a stepchild. You’ve got to be thinking all the time. You’ve got to be thinking about the move he beat you with two years ago. You have got to remember that everything with him is a countermove.” Later in the book, Kramer added: “Alex has a half a dozen different, effective moves – it took him three or four years as a pro to develop them – and he uses all of them. One of his moves is a little hop and a skip to the outside. He actually hops, and it looks funny, but it works.”
Karras was selected to three-straight Pro Bowls from 1960-62, but then found his career derailed by the NFL after admitting that he’d bet on NFL games. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Alex, as well as Green Bay Packer Paul Hornung, for the 1963 season because of their gambling activity. Karras returned to the field in 1964 and to the Pro Bowl in 1965. He remained a force throughout the rest of the decade. Alex finished his NFL career in 1970, helping the Lions to a 10-4 record and their first playoff birth since 1957.