FROM ONE KARRAS TO ANOTHER, FOOTBALL IS A FAMILY AFFAIR
BLOOMINGTON: Ted Karras III, an outstaning offensive lineman for Illinois, never enjoyed a winning season during his three seasons with the Fighting Illini, never played in a Bowl game.
But as fate would have it, the 6-foot-4, 305 pounder ended up on the opposite side of the football universe when he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft by the New England Patriots.
Nine months later he was on the field in Houston as a member of a Super Bowl championship team.
“I definitely didn’t predict it,” Karras said with a laugh at a media session leading up to his second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. “Each season is a who new chapter, you have to bring your all and this year I did that. It is such a blessing and opportunity be back here, I am so thankful and happy.”
Karras III knew early he would have to make himself attractive to his coaches if he wanted to hang around. Playing more than one position was the key.
“Coming into the NFL and as a young guy coming in, they told me I had to be a versatile player,” Karras III said. “I never really played center in college and when I showed up for OTAs and camp I got the opportunity to play some center, I trained at that position so now I can plug in at either guard or center.”
Karras III has suited up for 34 NFL games and started three. He has natural size and a sense of humor that has already made him a fan favorite in New England.
A lot of that has to with his bloodlines.
Karras III is a third-generation NFL player. His grandfather, Ted Karras, Sr., and great uncles, Lou Karras and Alex Karras, played in the NFL during the 1950s and 1960s, and his father Ted Karras, Jr. played during the 1987 season. Has he inherited a gene to play football?
“Most certainly,” Karras III said. “I’m the fifth Karras to play in the National Football League on the interior line so there’s got to be something going on.”
There have been seven Karras family members to play in the Big 10 Karras III revealed. “I’m really happy that I get to continue the legacy,” said Karras III, who listed Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern as the programs the Karras’ have played for.
But the most famous Karras is his great uncle Alex. Alex Karras played defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons. Alex was four-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-team All-Pro, five-time Second-team All-Pro and was selected as a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade team.
But Alex is most known for his career as an actor in numerous films and television shows. Karras III was asked if he followed his great uncle’s career and if he liked talking about him.
“I LOVE talking about Alex,” Karras III said as his eyes widened.
Karras III said he met his great uncle just once – during his later years – but he said the moment was memorable. Karras was a two-way lineman for Indianapolis Cathedral High School in Indiana at the time.
In his later years, Karras suffered several serious health problems, including dementia, heart disease, and cancer. He died in the morning hours of October 10, 2012.
He Karras was among 3,500 former NFL players to have filed lawsuits against the NFL in early 2012, over the long-term damage caused by concussions and repeated hits to the head.
“He was my grandfather’s youngest brother and he live out in Hollywood Hills in Malibu,” Karras III said. “I got to meet him my senior year in high school. We visited him at his Hollywood Hills house when I was visiting UCLA. That was actually my only time with Alex Karras….I’ve read his books and I’ve seen all his movies. I’ve read George Plimpton’s books, those were pretty good. Those are chronicled Alex Karras stories.”
Karras III listed “Blazing Saddles” (1974, Mongo) and “Porkies” (1981, Sheriff Wallace) as his favorite Alex Karras flicks.
In an interview during Wednesday’s Media Day, broadcast live on the Footballstories Radio show on 610 Sports ESPN Philadelphia , Karras III said he was a fan of several television shows including NBC’s “The Office” and HBO’s mega-hit “Game of Thrones.”
Karrass III was able to list several of his favorite episodes of the the comedy series that ran from 2005 to 2013 that was about the everyday lives of fictional paper mill company office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania staring Steve Carell.
“Game of Thrones” is a fantasy drama of a Middle Earth-type world that is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and centers on seven kingdoms run by families who will cut each other’s throats without a thought in order to claim the “Iron Throne.”
Karras III was asked what kingdom family he would compare the Karras family to, his choice was far from surprising.
“There’s pros and cons to a lot of them,” Karras III said. “But the good guys are the Starks I always thought, so I want to be the good guys.”
But the Starks have seen quite a few members slaughtered by the evil clans.
“I don’t think we would go down like them though.” Karras III laughed. “I think we could protect ourselves a lot better than they did.”
But Karras is doing a good job of protecting his gig with the Pats. Even if you would rather grind your fist in a jar of razor blades than root for the Patriots, you can tip your cap to a tradition like no other.
“I’m so happy I even get a role on this team,” Karras III said. “To be able to start a few games, I was very grateful for the opportunity. I am glad I could do enough to help the team win and I’m doing the same in my role now.”
Some info from Wikipedia
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii