Alex Karras, a feared player in the NFL with a reputation for toughness, played Mongo in Blazing Saddles. Sadly, Alex passes away today in LA.

Mongo, whose real name we all know is Alex Karras, loved his garden! Yes, the Detroit Lion’s pro bowl, tough-as-nails defensive lineman who caused havoc for opposing quarterbacks, was a man who in retirement loved to gently tend to his tulips, orchids and roses amid his beautiful garden in the Hollywood Hills.

I was asked to photograph for Sports Illustrated the man who slugged a horse in the legendary Blazing Saddles scene. Since it was for the magazine’s “Where Are They Now” issue, Karras wanted to show off his green thumb to his adoring public. And I was eager to oblige.

I hope he found the peace and tranquility often found in the outdoors as he tended to his garden in his years before his death today. Suffering from a variety of ailments, including dementia and cancer, I trust he is in a better place devoid of the pain of from his illnesses.

I’ll always remember him as Mongo, but I’ll always envision him tending to his delicate flowers.

RIP, Alex Karras.

Todd Bigelow Photography

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