Merlin Olsen

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Merlin Olsen
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{{short description|American football defensive tackle, announcer, and actor}}{{Use mdy dates|date=January 2019}}

| death_place = Duarte, California, U.S.| height_ft = 6| height_in = 5| weight_lbs = 270| draftyear = 1962| draftround = 1| draftpick = 3| afldraftyear = 1962| afldraftround = 1| afldraftpick = 2Logan High School (Utah)>Logan (Logan, Utah)Utah State University>Utah State| pastteams = }}Merlin Jay Olsen ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|oʊ|l|s|ən}}; September 15, 1940 – March 11, 2010)NEWS,weblink Reports: Merlin Olsen dies at 69, Florio, Miked, March 11, 2010, NBC Sports, March 11, 2010, was an American football player, announcer, and actor. He played his entire 15-year professional football career in National Football League (NFL) as a defensive tackle with the Los Angeles Rams. He was selected to the Pro Bowl a record 14 straight times, missing selection only in the last year of his career. This record of 14 seasons selected to play in the Pro Bowl, consecutive or otherwise, is shared with current New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, former offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, former tight end Tony Gonzalez, and former quarterback Peyton Manning. A recipient of the 1961 Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football, Olsen is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. As an actor, he portrayed farmer Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. After leaving that series, he starred in his own NBC drama, Father Murphy.

Early life

Born to Merle Barrus and Lynn Jay Olsen in Logan, Utah, the second of nine siblings and the first-born son, Olsen had three brothers and five sisters: Colleen, Clark, Lorraine, Gwen, Phil, Winona, Ramona, and Orrin. {{citation needed|date=October 2014}}


Olsen attended Utah State University where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and was a three-year letterman in football as a defensive tackle. He graduated from the College of Business and Social Sciences at USU with a bachelor's degree in Finance in 1962 and a master's degree in Economics in 1971.weblink" title="">Honorary Degree Recipients Utah State University. He later received an honorary doctorate degree in business from the Huntsman School.In football, as a senior, he was a consensus All-American selection (making the vast majority of All-America teams) and was the winner of the Outland Trophy. After Olsen's junior year of 1960 he was also named All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and Newspaper Enterprise Association. He was also All-Conference in both 1960 and 1961. Olsen and Utah State were in the 1960 Sun Bowl, losing to New Mexico State, 20–13. Led by Olsen, the Aggie defense held the New Mexico State Aggies to just 44 rushing yards on 32 carries.WEB,weblink Merlin Olsen College,, March 12, 2010, {{dead link|date=June 2016|bot=medic}}{{cbignore|bot=medic}}The Aggie defense Olsen anchored as a senior gave up an average of 50.8 rushing yards (which led the nation), 88.6 passing yards, and 139.4 total yards which all still stand as school records for defense. The 1961 Aggie defense gave up an average 7.8 points a game, which is second in team history behind Olsen's 1960 team, which allowed 6.5 points per game.Utah State University Media Guide Additionally, the Aggie defense held four opponents to less than 100 total yards. One, the University of Idaho, was held to a school-record 23 total yards, with the Aggies winning 69–0.The Aggies, not known as a national power football program, finished 10th in both the AP and UPI post-season polls, the only time that has occurred in school history. The Aggies had a combined 18–3–1 record during Olsen's junior and senior seasons under coach John Ralston and were conference champions those two seasons as well.WEB,weblink Utah State Championships, College Football Data Warehouse, 2010-03-13, dead,weblink" title="">weblink February 16, 2010,

Awards and honors

Olsen played in the East-West Shrine Game in 1961 and in 2003 was voted to the game's Hall of Fame.The East West Shrine Game | Hall of Fame {{webarchive |url= |date=July 21, 2009 }} He also played in the Hula Bowl after his senior season and was voted MVP of the game.Hula Bowl | History {{webarchive |url= |date=July 14, 2007 }}Olsen is a member of the State of Utah's Sports Hall of Fame, the Utah State University Sports Hall of Fame and USU's All-Century Football Team. In 2000, he was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the State of Utah's Top 50 Athletes of the Century. He was voted to the All-Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1969, he was voted to the Newspaper Enterprise Association All-Time All-America team with collegiate greats such as Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Jim Thorpe, and O. J. Simpson, among others.NEA All-Time All-America Team – Beckly Post-Herald, August 24, 1969In 2008, Olsen was named to the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team to commemorate the Sun Bowl Association's Diamond Anniversary.PRESS RELEASE,weblink Utah State's Merlin Olsen Named To 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team, Utah State University, July 3, 2008, Utah State University announced the intention to name its football field after Olsen during a ceremony in Logan during halftime of the USU-St. Mary's basketball game on December 5, 2009.PRESS RELEASE,weblink Utah State University Will Honor Merlin Olsen on Saturday, Dec. 5 At Aggie Basketball Game, Utah State University, November 16, 2009, 2010-03-11, (File:USU-Merlin-Olsen.jpg | thumb | 220x124px | right | top | alt= Statue made of Merlin Olsen |Statue Of Merlin Olsen at Maverik Stadium.)HOF Sculptor Blair Buswell created a bronze sculpture that sits at the entrance to Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.Olsen also was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State and graduated summa cum laude in 1962 with a degree in finance.


Professional football

Coming out of college, Olsen had offers from both the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League and the Denver Broncos of the rival American Football League. He chose the security of the NFL and signed with the Rams. Olsen's first contract was for around $50,000 for two years, plus a signing bonus. It was 1962, and the average football player salary at the time was around $12,000 a year. He was the first USU Aggie to be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft.Olsen played professionally (from 1962 to 1976) for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. A leading defensive star of his era, he missed only two games in his 15-season NFL career. He was named the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 1962 and was First-team All-Pro in 1964, and 1966 through 1970. He was voted Second-team All-Pro in 1965, 1973 and 1974.2008 St. Louis Rams Media GuideOlsen almost ended up on offense, but was later moved to the defensive line after a few experiments in practice. Soon he became part of one of the best front fours in NFL history. Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy joined Olsen on the defensive line in 1963 that was nicknamed "The Fearsome Foursome". He was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Week for week 12 in 1965. Olsen scored his first touchdown in that game.Throughout the 1960s, this quartet terrorized opposing offenses. Olsen's play helped the Rams to the playoffs in 1967 and 1969. He was voted the club's Outstanding Defensive Lineman from 1967–70 by the Los Angeles Rams Alumni. In week 14, 1967, Olsen and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome were named the AP NFL Defensive Players of the Week for their performance against the Baltimore Colts. In the 1970s, Olsen continued his dominant play at defensive tackle and his eleven sacks in 1972 were second on the team. After week 8 in 1972, Olsen was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Week for the third time in his career.The Rams won the NFC West crown in 1973 through 1976 thanks in part to the play of Olsen. They ranked first in the NFL in run defense in 1973 and 1974 and finished second in sacking opposing passers both years. In 1973 Olsen was voted the NFLPA NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year and the next season, 1974, he was the recipient of Bert Bell Award as the NFL MVP as voted by the Maxwell Club. Olsen accepted the award "on behalf of all who toil in the NFL trenches".Three of the Olsen brothers, Merlin, Phil, and Orrin, played in the NFL, with Merlin and Phil playing together for the Rams from 1971–74. A nephew, Hans, son of his brother, Clark, also played professional football.{{citation needed|date=August 2014}} In 1975 and 1976, the Rams defense finished second in the NFL against the run while ranking in the top five in sacking opposing quarterbacks and compiling a 22-5-1 record over those two seasons.Olsen's last game was the NFC Championship game in 1976 at Bloomington, Minnesota. The Vikings took advantage on a freak play early in the game. A blocked field goal returned 90 yards for a touchdown shocked the Rams in the first quarter. The defense was later victimized by a couple of big plays by the Vikings. The Rams came up short, losing 24–13, bringing the storied career of the Rams finest defensive tackle to an end.Olsen made the Pro Bowl a record 14 times, only missing it in his final year. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 in his first year of eligibility; he selected his college position coach Tony Knap as his - Merlin Olsen - enshrinement speech - 1982 - accessed 2012-03-25 In 1999, Olsen was ranked 25th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.NEWS,weblink NFL News, Scores, Schedule & Standings - Pro Football, Sporting News, 2010-03-13,weblink" title="">weblink 2010-03-09, dead,


Olsen enjoyed continued success after the NFL as a broadcaster, actor, and businessman.WEB,weblink BREAKING NEWS: The Fearsome Foursome now two: NFL Legend Merlin Olsen Dead at 69, The Enterprise Report, March 11, 2010, Olsen served as a television color commentator, teaming mostly with Dick Enberg on NBC's coverage of the AFC during the late 1970s and almost all of the 1980s. He and Enberg also teamed for four Super Bowls (XV, XVII, XX and XXIII), as well as nine Rose Bowls from 1980 to 1988. Olsen also worked Super Bowl XIII in 1979 with Curt Gowdy and John Brodie (Enberg was then serving as pre-game/halftime/post-game host). In 1989, Olsen was replaced byWEB,weblink History of #1 analyst demotions, February 18, 2013, Classic Sports TV and Media, April 13, 2013, Bill Walsh as NBC's lead NFL color commentator. For the 1989 season, Olsen worked with Charlie Jones on NBC's broadcasts. In 1990 and 1991, he moved to CBS Sports doing NFL games with Dick Stockton.Olsen developed a successful career as an actor. He appeared as the character Little George in the John Wayne movie, "The Undefeated", with Rams teammate Roman Gabriel, in 1969.In 1970, he appeared once on Petticoat Junction, in the episode: "With This Ring". He played mountaineer Merlin Fergus. When Little House on the Prairie actor Victor French left to star in his own comedy Carter Country in 1977, Olsen was tapped to play Michael Landon's new sidekick Jonathan Garvey for several years. One memorable quote from his character's son, Andy Garvey, "My pa doesn't know anything about football!" came when Andy's friends suggested that Jonathan coach their football team. Olsen was the eponymous Father Murphy, which lasted for two seasons.In the Highway to Heaven episode 2.12 ("The Good Doctor"), the main character, Alex, tells Mark Gordon (Victor French) that "All I could see was the flowers and the beard. I thought you were Merlin Olsen." This is an inside joke since all three actors, Merlin Olsen, Michael Landon, and Victor French were in the TV series Little House On the Prairie earlier in their careers.Olsen's last acting work was in the short-lived 1988 TV series Aaron's Way.Olsen was also the commercial spokesman for FTD Florists for many years. A part-time resident of the Coachella Valley, Olsen was the longtime radio and television spokesman for Palm Desert-based El Paseo Bank.WEB,weblink The Desert Sun - Palm Springs and Coachella Valley news, Desert Sun, Olsen also appeared in many Sigma Chi fraternity promotional campaigns; Merlin, along with his brother Phil, was a Life Loyal Sig, Significant Sig (given to members for distinguishing acts outside the fraternity) and a member of the Order of Constantine (given for service to the Fraternity). Olsen donated one of his cleats, which were bronzed, to be used during the annual football rivalry between two Las Vegas high schools, Eldorado High School and Chaparral High School, which both opened in 1973. Each year, Olsen presented the "trophy" in the ceremony at the rivalry game.{{citation needed|date=March 2010}}Olsen often co-hosted the Children's Miracle Network telethons, a humanitarian organization founded in 1983 by Marie Osmond and John Schneider.


He was named the Walter Camp Man of the Year in 1982 and Athlete of the Century for the state of Utah. During halftime of a basketball game between Utah State, Olsen's alma mater, and Saint Mary's on December 5, 2009, Utah State University announced that the playing surface inside Romney Stadium, home stadium for the university's football program, would be named Merlin Olsen Field in Olsen's honor. Because of Olsen's illness, Utah State decided not to wait until the 2010 football season to hold the ceremony; he was able to attend the game, but did not speak. A sculpture of Olsen was unveiled in a plaza south of the stadium during an official dedication ceremony in Fall 2010.WEB, Harrison, Shawn, Field named after Olsen: Utah State honors Aggie legend in halftime ceremony, The Herald Journal, Logan, Utah, December 6, 2009,weblink July 14, 2018, Olsen was voted to the California Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2010, along with Bill Walton, Dwight Stones, and Jim Otto, among others.WEB,weblink 2010 Inductees, California Sports Hall of Fame, July 14, 2018, In 1983, Olsen served as Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade.

Personal life

On March 30, 1962, Olsen married Susan Wakley, a fellow USU student. They had three children: Kelly, Jill, and Nathan. Olsen was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Olsen was a resident of San Marino, California.WEB,weblink Mediterranean Estate, San Marino, California 1984,, August 20, 2019, Olsen was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2009,WEB,weblink Utah State football names field after Merlin Olsen, Jared, Eborn, December 6, 2009, Deseret News, Salt Lake City, and underwent three courses of chemotherapy. In December 2009 he filed a lawsuit against 25 defendants including NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox, Georgia Pacific, Sherwin-Williams, and Lennox Corp. for allegedly exposing him to the asbestos which he claimed had caused his cancer.WEB,weblink Merlin Olsen suing NBC, TV Squad, December 31, 2009, 2010-03-11, WEB,weblink Mesothelioma Takes Life of Merlin Olsen, March 12, 2010, 2010-03-12, Olsen died on March 11, 2010 at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, at the age of 69.NEWS,weblink Merlin Olsen dies at 69; Hall of Fame football star later became actor, Keith, Thursby, Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2010, 2010-03-12, NEWS,weblink Olsen, Hall of Famer and member of 'Fearsome Foursome' dies, Associated Press, NFL News, March 11, 2010, 2010-03-11, NEWS,weblink Merlin Olsen, 69, Football Star, Commentator and Actor, Dies, Richard, Goldstein, March 11, 2010, The New York Times, Olsen is buried at San Gabriel Cemetery in San Gabriel, California.WEB,weblink Merlin Olsen, Find a Grave, August 20, 2019,


Film{| class"wikitable sortable"

! Year! Title! Role! NotesThe Undefeated (1969 film)>The Undefeated Little George 1971 One More Train to Rob Eli Jones Something Big (film)>Something Big Sgt. Fitzsimmons Mitchell (film)>Mitchell Benton ">

Television{| class"wikitable sortable"

! Year! Title! Role! NotesPetticoat Junction >| Episode: "With This Ring"Kung Fu (TV series)>Kung Fu Perlee Skowrin Episode: "Nine Lives"Dr. Simon Locke >| Episode: "The Killer"Little House on the Prairie (TV series)>Little House on the Prairie Jonathan Garvey 51 episodesA Fire in the Sky >| Television filmThe Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story >| Television filmWalking Tall (TV series)>Walking Tall Webb McClain Episode: "Hitman"Father Murphy >| 34 episodesThe Juggler of Notre Dame >| Television filmTime Bomb (1984 film)>Time Bomb Jake Calahan Television filmFathers and Sons (1986 TV series)>Fathers and Sons Buddy Landau Four episodesAaron's Way >| 14 episodes, (final television appearance)

See also



External links

  • {{Profootballhof|id=168|name=Merlin Olsen}}
  • {{cfbhof|id=1902|name=Merlin Olsen}}
  • {{Footballstats |nfl= |cfl= |afl= |espn= |cbs= |yahoo= |fox= |si= |pfr=O/OlseMe00 |dbf=OLSENMER01 |rotoworld=}}
  • {{IMDb name|id=0647744|name=Merlin Olsen}}
{{Navboxes| title = Merlin Olsen—awards and honors| list1 ={{Outland Trophy}}{{1961 College Football Consensus All-Americans}}{{1962 NFL Draft}}{{RamsFirstPick}}{{Los Angeles Rams 1962 draft navbox}}{{BroncosFirstPick}}{{Bert Bell Award}}{{NFL1960s}}{{NFL1970s}}{{NFL75}}{{Rams retired numbers}}{{St. Louis Football Ring Of Fame}}{{1982 Football HOF}}{{Pro Football Hall of Fame members}}{{Walter Camp Man of the Year}}}}{{Authority control}}

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