You knew him as the lovable Big Al. Hollywood addresses him as Richard Karn. His University of Washington and nearby Roosevelt High School classmates still remember him as Rick Wilson.
This actor, who made a name for himself as the lovable sidekick for Tim Allen in the long-running TV show “Home Improvement,” was part of the pre-game tailgate turnout prior to Saturday’s UW-UCLA football game, still proving recognizable to a lot of people.
He was part of a significantly larger Husky parking-lot gathering than showed up for the first three home games, maybe demonstrating the pandemic is once again easing and showing step-by-step signs of some normalcy.
Karn, a 1979 UW graduate, grew up attending Husky football games and was a starting wide receiver at nearby Roosevelt High, came back to see old friends and participate in homecoming festivities. He also was hoping for a UW victory, some improvement per se from a Jimmy Lake team that has stumbled out of the gate.
We found him hanging out with several other Roosevelt classmates turned UW alums or Husky fans,. Among them were Dave Rost, profiled this week at the football team’s No. 1 fan, and Jim Thompson, Karn’s Roughriders quarterback who is the son of the oldest living UW football letterman, a one-time back and kicker also named Jim Thompson from 1946.
Karn became a household name as the tool man character Al Borland for the Home Improvement series, joining in 202 episodes for a popular sitcom and ratings hit that ran from 1991 to 1999. He next hosted the game show “Family Feud” from 2002 to 2008. He’s still working.
His Wilson family used to have Husky football season tickets for several years so he was always involved with the games growing up. He monitors the UW football outings from afar when he’s not in the stadium.
And, no, Richard Karn never had any ambitions to turn out for Husky football. He much preferred portraying characters rather than getting knocked silly in a college setting.
“That seemed a couple of steps above my pay grade,” Karn said of the possibility of playing Husky football. “When I was doing high school, [it was], ‘This is fun,’ but when it steps up to the college level there’s a lot more force involved. A t that point, I got the acting bug and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Find Husky Maven on Facebook by searching: Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated
Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven