Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lion defensive tackle turned actor in the ABC sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home following a hard-fought battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, according to a family spokesman.

He was 77.

"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 written statement.

The Gary, Indiana, native was an All-American at the University of Iowa and became a first-round draft pick by the Lions in 1958. He went on to help the team's defensive line become one of several through the years that bore the nickname "Fearsome Foursome."

But, according to his family, "Karras had always dreamed of being an actor."

After various appearances on television shows, he landed roles in movies, including "Blazing Saddles" and "Victor Victoria."

He later joined the long-running television show "Webster," where he played George Papadapolis, the guardian of the newly orphaned Webster, played by actor Emmanuel Lewis.