Finally in! Detroit Lions great Alex Karras selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Alex Karras' Hall of Fame wait is finally over.

The former Detroit Lions defensive tackle was announced as one of 15 people selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday morning, part of this year's expanded centennial class. 

Former Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was announced Wednesday.

“We would like to congratulate the entire Karras family on the selection of Alex into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement. “While we were thrilled to induct Alex into our most recent Pride of the Lions class in 2018, today’s announcement solidifies his place as not only one of the all-time great Lions players, but also one of the best to ever play in the NFL."

Karras spent his entire 12-year career with the Lions after being drafted by the franchise in the first round in 1958. With the Lions, Karras was selected a first-team All-Pro four times, and was named to the All-Decade Team of the 1960s by the Hall of Fame.

Before sacks became an official stat, Karras terrorized opposing quarterbacks as a member of Detroit's heralded "Fearsome Foursome" front. In 2018, the franchise added him to their Pride of the Lions, along with longtime linemate Roger Brown. 

After his career, Karras went on to have a successful acting career, including roles in “Blazing Saddles” and the television show “Webster.” He died in October 2012.

Karras' delayed enshrinement had long been viewed as tied to a year-long suspension in 1963, after he admitted to placing bets on NFL games. Packers running back Paul Hornung also was banned a year. 

In a 2008 interview with The Detroit News, Karras reflected on the situation. 

 "That's something I don't even think about anymore," Karras said. "It's so stupid what happened to me. At the end, the reality was there were so many people involved, (the solution was), 'Deny.' They put it all on me. But that's OK. I've done pretty well since."

Hornung beat Karras to the Hall of Fame by more than 30 years, earning enshrinement in 1986. 

More: Relatives continue push to get record-setting Lion Don Doll in Hall of Fame

In addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Karras is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. A two-time All-American at Iowa, he was inducted in 1991. 

Joining Karras in this year's centennial class are coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, contributors Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young and former players Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, and Ed Sprinkle. 

Former Lions linebacker Ox Emerson and coach Buddy Parker did not make the final cut.

The group was selected by a panel consisting of media members, former players, coaches and general managers, including current New England coach Bill Belichick. 

The class, which will include five modern day selections announced the week of the Super Bowl, will be enshrined Sept. 17 in Canton, Ohio.

Hall of Fame Centennial Class

Here are the 15 members of the 2020 Hall of Fame “Centennial Class.” Five Modern Era players will complete the 2020 Hall of Fame class. They will be announced on Feb. 1. (*-deceased)


Players who last played more than 25 years ago.

Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-83 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys

Jim Covert, T – 1983-90 Chicago Bears

*Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 Green Bay Packers

Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys

*Winston Hill, T – 1963-76 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams

*Alex Karras, DT – 1958-62, 1964-70 Detroit Lions

Donnie Shell, S – 1974-87 Pittsburgh Steelers

*Duke Slater, T – 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-31 Chicago Cardinals

*Mac Speedie, E – 1946-52 Cleveland Browns

*Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-55 Chicago Bears


Bill Cowher – 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers

Jimmy Johnson – 1989-93 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins 


*Steve Sabol, administrator/resident – 1964-2012 NFL Films

Paul Tagliabue, commissioner – 1989-2006 NFL

*George Young, contributor/GM – 1968-74 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-97 New York Giants, 1998-2001 NFL

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers