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Merlin Olsen: A Giant On and Off The Field

Posted on March 12, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Merlin Olsen earned 14 Pro Bowl trips during his 15-year NFL career.

Merlin Olsen earned 14 Pro Bowl trips during his 15-year NFL career.

The sports world lost a gentle giant on Thursday with the death at age 69 of NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen.

Though Olsen made his name as one of the best defensive tackles in NFL history, he is known to a generation for his post football work as a broadcaster and pitchman as well as for his role on one of the leading television programs of the 1970s and 1980s.

A three-time All-American and 1961 Outland Trophy winner at Utah State, Olsen was the first round pick in the 1962 AFL Draft by the Denver Broncos (second overall) and in the 1962 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams (third overall).

He chose to play for the Rams and the result was one of the greatest careers in NFL history.

Olsen earned a spot in the Pro Bowl as a rookie and would go on to earn a spot in a record 14 straight Pro Bowls. He also was a five-time first team All-Pro and the NFL Player of the Year in 1974.

Merlin Olsen was part of the famous Fearsome Foursome of the 1960s.

Merlin Olsen was part of the famous Fearsome Foursome of the 1960s.

Part of the famous “Fearsome Foursome”, Olsen teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Roosevelt Grier to create one of the most recognized defensive units of the era.

The Rams reached the playoffs six times during his career, but were never able to win an NFL or NFC title or participate in a Super Bowl.

Olsen was named to the NFL All-Decade team in both the 1960s and 1970s and in 1982 was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After retiring from the NFL, Olsen moved to television where he earned notoriety both as an actor and as a football commentator.

In 1977 he joined the cast of the popular television program Little House on the Prairie as the sidekick to star Michael Landon.  He was part of the show until 1981 when he became the star of the show Father Murphy, which ran until 1983.

Olsen teamed with veteran play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg on NBC’s number one NFL broadcast team throughout most of the 1980s. The duo also broadcast the Rose Bowl for nearly a decade.

After leaving the NFL, Olsen starred on television In Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.

After leaving the NFL, Olsen starred on television In Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.

In 1983 Olsen was honored as the Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl Parade. It was a perfect for Olsen, who served for decades as the television spokesman for FTD Florists.

Olsen moved to CBS as a broadcaster for two years in the early 1990s before retiring from the booth.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, in 2009 and underwent three courses of chemotherapy. In January 2010 he filed a lawsuit against NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox for exposing him to asbestos.


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