Merlin Jay Olsen (/ˈoʊlsən/; September 15, 1940 – 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.
|Born:||September 15, 1940|
|Died:||March 11, 2010 (aged 69)|
|Height:||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Weight:||270 lb (122 kg)|
|High school:||Logan (Logan, Utah)|
|NFL Draft:||1962 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3|
|AFL draft:||1962 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. HOF Sculptor Blair Buswell created a bronze sculpture that sits at the entrance to Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.
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.
Olsen 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. 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 presenter. In 1999, Olsen was ranked 25th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
Olsen enjoyed continued success after the NFL as a broadcaster, actor, and businessman.
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 by 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 appears as Sergeant Fitzsimmons in the John Wayne movie, "The Undefeated", with Rams teammate Roman Gabriel, in 1970.
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.
A couple of years later, Landon cast Olsen as 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 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.
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.
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. Olsen was voted to the California Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2010, along with Bill Walton, Dwight Stones, and Jim Otto, among others.
Olsen married fellow USU student Susan Wakley on March 30, 1962, and they had three children: Kelly, Jill, and Nathan, and four grandchildren. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Olsen also served as Grand Marshal of the 1983 Rose Parade.
He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2009, 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. Olsen died on March 11, 2010 at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, at the age of 69.
|1969||The Undefeated||Little George|
|1971||One More Train to Rob||Eli Jones|
|Something Big||Sgt. Fitzsimmons|
|1970||Petticoat Junction||Merlin Fergus||Episode: "With This Ring"|
|1973||Kung Fu||Perlee Skowrin||Episode: "Nine Lives"|
|1974||Dr. Simon Locke||The Cat||Episode: "The Killer"|
|1977-1981||Little House on the Prairie||Jonathan Garvey||51 episodes|
|1978||A Fire in the Sky||Stan Webster||Television film|
|1980||The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story||Todd Simms||Television film|
|1981||Walking Tall||Webb McClain||Episode: "Hitman"|
|1981-1983||Father Murphy||John Michael Murphy||34 episodes|
|1982||The Juggler of Notre Dame||Jonas||Television film|
|1984||Time Bomb||Jake Calahan||Television film|
|1986||Fathers and Sons||Buddy Landau||Four episodes|
|1988||Aaron's Way||Aaron Miller||14 episodes, (final television appearance)|
| NFL on NBC lead analyst (with John Brodie in 1978)
| Super Bowl television color commentator (AFC package carrier)
The 1969 Pro Bowl was the NFL's nineteenth annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1968 season. The game was played on Sunday, January 19, 1969, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The final score was West 10, East 7. Merlin Olsen of the Los Angeles Rams was selected as lineman for the game. Roman Gabriel of the Rams received the back of the game award.Attendance at the game was 32,050. The game was noteworthy because of the contributions of Los Angeles Rams players and their coach. George Allen, the coach of the Rams, had been fired after the season. But, after a great outcry from the fans, he was rehired by Rams management after the Pro Bowl. The coach of the East was Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. The game ball was presented to Allen due to his trials in the previous weeks.1989 Fiesta Bowl
The 1989 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, played on Monday, January 2, was the 18th edition of the Fiesta Bowl. It featured the top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the third-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. With both teams undefeated, the Fiesta Bowl was the stage for the "national championship" for the second time in three years. As in 1987, the Fiesta Bowl featured two independents squaring off for the national title.
Also, as in 1987, the game was played on January 2, but this was because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday in 1989 and, per protocols, all of the bowls that would normally take place that day were played on January 2. With NBC no longer televising the Rose Bowl, the kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl was moved three hours later, to 2:30 p.m. MST, and the game now had NBC's top broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen.2016 Utah State Aggies football team
The 2016 Utah State Aggies football team represented Utah State University in the 2016 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Aggies were led by fourth-year head coach Matt Wells and played their home games at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium. This was Utah State's fourth season as members of the Mountain West Conference in the Mountain Division. They finished the season 3–9, 1–7 in Mountain West play to finish in last place in the Mountain Division.2017 Utah State Aggies football team
The 2017 Utah State Aggies football team represented Utah State University in the 2017 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Aggies were led by fifth-year head coach Matt Wells and played their home games at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium. They competed as members of the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. They finished the season 6–7, 4–4 in Mountain West play to finish in a tie for fourth place in the Mountain Division. They were invited to the Arizona Bowl where they lost to New Mexico State.2018 Utah State Aggies football team
The 2018 Utah State Aggies football team represented Utah State University in the 2018 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Aggies were led by sixth-year head coach Matt Wells during the regular season[a] and played their home games at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium. They competed as members of the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. They finished the season 11–2, 7–1 in Mountain West play to finish in a tie for first place in the Mountain Division with Boise State. Although the team tied for first place with Boise State in the Mountain Division, the conference does not credit them as divisional co-champions as a result of the head-to-head loss. They were invited to the New Mexico Bowl where they defeated North Texas. The 11 wins tied a school record.
Head coach Matt Wells was hired by Texas Tech on November 29; the team was led in the New Mexico Bowl by interim head coach and co-defensive
coordinator Frank Maile. Wells finished with a 44–34 record in his six seasons at Utah State. On December 9, the school rehired Gary Andersen, 6 years after he left for Wisconsin.Aaron's Way
Aaron's Way is a 1988 American family drama series that aired on NBC. The series stars Merlin Olsen as Aaron Miller, the husband and father of an Amish family that moves to California. The series follows the attempts of family members to adapt to Californian culture while retaining their personal values. Also appearing on the series were Samantha Mathis and Belinda Montgomery.Eldorado High School (Las Vegas)
Eldorado High School is a public high school in Clark County, Nevada, United States. The school is a part of the Clark County School District, located in Sunrise Manor, an unincorporated area on the northeast part of the Las Vegas Valley, south of Nellis Air Force Base. Its team mascot is the Sundevils and its school colors are maroon and gold.Freezer Bowl
In National Football League (NFL) lore, the Freezer Bowl was the 1981 American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The game, won by the Bengals, 27–7, was played in the coldest temperature in NFL history in terms of wind chill. (The coldest in terms of air temperature was the Ice Bowl.) Air temperature was −9 °F (−22.8 °C), but the wind chill, factoring in a sustained wind of 27 miles per hour (43 km/h), was −37 °F or −38.3 °C (calculated as −59 °F or −50.6 °C using the now outdated wind chill formula in place at the time). The game was played on January 10, 1982 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, and televised by NBC, with announcers Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen.Lamar Lundy
Lamar J. Lundy, Jr. (April 17, 1935 – February 24, 2007) was an American defensive end with the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League for 13 seasons, from 1957 to 1969. Along with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, and Rosey Grier, Lundy was a member of the Fearsome Foursome, often considered one of the best defensive lines in NFL history. All four also did some acting; Lundy portrayed the boulder-hurling cyclops in the unaired pilot of Lost in Space (this pilot was later made into episode 4 of the series, entitled "There Were Giants in the Earth").
Lundy was born in Richmond, Indiana, and graduated from Richmond High School; a 2 sport star, Lamar led the Red Devils to the State Finals in basketball, playing for Hall of Fame Coach, Art Beckner. He was selected to the Indiana All-Star team; he was also an All-State player in football. When it came time to choose a college, Lamar selected and attended Purdue University, where he was the first black student to receive a football scholarship, and where he was named MVP of both the football and basketball teams in his senior year. He led the football team in receiving his senior season and was a 2x All-Big Ten (2nd Team) end. As a collegiate basketball player, Lamar scored 678 points (#73 all-time for the Boilermakers) and collected 533 rebounds (#29 all-time for the Boilermakers). He was a 3rd team All-Big Ten Center in 1957. The 6'7" Lundy was drafted by both the NFL and the NBA, but he opted for a career in football. Early in his professional career, Lundy (#85) was occasionally used as an offensive receiver, catching 35 passes for 584 yards and 6 touchdowns. He scored an additional 3 touchdowns on interception returns (coincidentally, on the only 3 interceptions of his NFL career). When he retired as a player, Lundy became an assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers, but was forced by illness to cease coaching.
Lundy died at age 71 on February 24, 2007. He was the first of the Fearsome Foursome to die. Lundy, who battled diabetes, Graves disease, myasthenia gravis, cancer, and heart disease, was survived by two adult sons, two adult daughters, and many grandchildren.List of AFC Championship Game broadcasters
The following is a list of the television and radio networks and announcers who have broadcast the American Football Conference Championship Game throughout the years. The years listed concentrate on the season instead of the calendar year that the game took place. The forerunner to the AFC Championship Game (prior to the 1970 AFL–NFL merger) was the AFL Championship Game.List of American Bowl broadcasters
The following is a list of the television networks and announcers to have broadcast the American Bowl, which was a series of National Football League pre-season exhibition games that were held at sites outside the United States between 1986 and 2005. Out of the list, ESPN hosted the America Bowl the largest number of times, with NBC coming second.List of NFL on NBC commentator pairings
The first name that's slated is the play-by-play man while the color commentator or commentators are slated second and sideline reporters, if used, are slated last.List of Rose Bowl broadcasters
The following is a list of the television networks and announcers who have broadcast college football's Rose Bowl throughout the years.Los Angeles Rams awards
This page details awards won by the Los Angeles Rams American football team. The Rams were formerly based in St. Louis (1995–2015) and Cleveland (1936–1942, 1944–1945), as well as Los Angeles (1946–1994, 2016–present).Maverik Stadium
Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium is an outdoor college football stadium in the western United States, on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. The home field of the Utah State Aggies of the Mountain West Conference, it opened 51 years ago in 1968 as "Romney Stadium" and currently has a seating capacity of 25,100. Its field has a traditional north-south alignment, and sits at an elevation of 4,710 feet (1,435 m) above sea level. The playing surface was natural grass through 2003, and is currently AstroTurf GameDay Grass.
Previously named for Dick Romney, USU's all-time most successful football coach and former athletics director, Romney Stadium was officially dedicated on September 27, 1969. The first game in the stadium came a season earlier in 1968, when USU defeated New Mexico State 28–12 on September 14.Mitchell (film)
Mitchell is a 1975 American action film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, written by Ian Kennedy Martin, and starring Joe Don Baker as an abrasive police detective. The film was released in the United States on September 10, 1975 by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation.
Very much an anti-hero, Mitchell often ignores the orders of his superiors and demonstrates disdain for by-the-book development work as well as normal social graces. The film co-stars John Saxon and Martin Balsam as the banking criminals Mitchell pursues and Linda Evans and Merlin Olsen in supporting roles as a prostitute and henchman.National Football League 1970s All-Decade Team
This is a list of all National Football League (NFL) players who had outstanding performances throughout the 1970s and have been compiled onto this fantasy group. The team was selected by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The squad consists of first- and second-team offensive, defensive and special teams units, as well as a first- and second-team head coaches.
Punter Ray Guy was the leading vote-getter for the 1970s All-Decade Team, receiving 24 of a possible 25 votes. O.J. Simpson and Lynn Swann were next with 22 and 21 votes, respectively. Linebacker Jack Ham and Tight end Dave Casper each received 20 votes. Next were Defensive end Jack Youngblood and Joe Greene who each had 18 votes.
Holdovers from the National Football League 1960s All-Decade Team were Bob Lilly, Dick Butkus, Merlin Olsen, Larry Wilson, Jim Bakken, and Willie Brown.Phil Olsen (American football)
Phillip Vernor Olsen (born April 26, 1948) is a former center and defensive tackle in the National Football League for the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos. He was also a member of the Buffalo Bills. He is the younger brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen.Utah State Aggies football
The Utah State Aggies are a college football team that competes in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I, representing Utah State University. The Utah State college football program began in 1892 and has played home games at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium since 1968. They have won twelve conference championships in four different conferences during their history, most recently in 2012. Overall, the Aggies have a record of 540–540–31 (.500).In December 2012, Matt Wells, previously the offensive coordinator, became the Aggies' new head coach, replacing Gary Andersen. Andersen left the Aggies shortly after the final game of the 2012 season to become the new head coach for the University of Wisconsin. Andersen had replaced Brent Guy following the unsuccessful 2008 season. Andersen was previously the defensive coordinator at the University of Utah, and he was also a part of the 2008 Ute team that went undefeated and won the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
In 2018, it was announced that Andersen would return as the Aggie's head coach.
The Aggies have played in 13 bowl games in their history, winning five: the 2018 New Mexico Bowl against the North Texas Mean Green, the 2014 New Mexico Bowl against the UTEP Miners, the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl against the Northern Illinois Huskies, the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Toledo Rockets and the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl against Ball State.
Merlin Olsen—awards and honors