Utah State, NFL Great Merlin Olsen Dies
LOGAN, Utah (March 11, 2010) — NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, the greatest athlete in Utah State
University history, died at City of Hope Hospital near Los Angeles
early Thursday morning (March 11) after a courageous battle with
Olsen's outstanding record on both college and NFL football
fields was followed by successful careers as a beloved television actor
and as a television sports commentator. He is remembered also as a
tireless philanthropist, giving enormous amounts of time, talent and
financial resources to numerous causes across the country.
"I can't think of anyone who has graduated from Utah State
University who has accomplished more in a broader array of fields than
Merlin Olsen," said Utah State University President Stan Albrecht. "His
distinctive and powerful voice will be remembered for the breadth of
its influence and by the impact it has had in so many different facets
of our lives."
Albrecht said he knows of no other Utah State University graduate whose impact has been so far reaching or so profound.
"This was the voice of a man who not only became one of our
country's most decorated athletes, but also one of the most
accomplished and respected people ever to hail from the state of Utah,"
Albrecht said. "Throughout this long and impressive career, we are
proud to note that it has been an Aggie voice. We will remember him
always as a dear and lifelong friend of this institution at so many
Olsen was a three-year letterman on the offensive and defensive
lines for Utah State's football team from 1959-61, earning All-American
honors during both his junior and senior seasons. During his senior
season in 1961, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding
interior defensive lineman.
Olsen also was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State and
graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Kappa Phi in 1962 with a degree in
During his senior season, Olsen anchored an Aggie defense that
yielded an average of 50.8 rushing yards per game to lead the nation.
USU also allowed 88.6 passing yards and 139.4 total yards per game in
1961, and all three of those averages still rank as the best
single-season efforts in school history.
The 1961 Aggie defense gave up an average
7.8 points a game, which is second in school 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 that season,
including Idaho who was held to a school-record 23 total yards in USU's
69-0 win on Oct. 28.
During Olsen's junior and senior seasons, Utah State had a
combined 18-3-1 record under head coach John Ralston and was Skyline
Conference co-Champions each year as USU played in back-to-back bowl
games against New Mexico State (Sun Bowl, 1960) and Baylor (Gotham
Bowl, 1961). Utah State finished the 1961 season ranked 10th in both
the Associated Press and United Press International polls, the
highest-ever final ranking for a USU team.
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.
Following his collegiate career, Olsen was the third overall
pick in the 1962 NFL Draft and became a charter member of the Los
Angeles Rams and the famed "Fearsome Foursome." In 15 professional
seasons, he was named to an NFL-record 14 Pro Bowls and missed a total
of two games during his career. Along with earning All-Pro honors nine
times during his career, Olsen was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of
the Year in 1962 and the league's Most Valuable Lineman in 1973.
Olsen, who retired from professional football in 1976, was
enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and in 1999 was
ranked No. 25 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football
Players. He was voted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and
to the All-Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2008 Olsen was
named to the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team to commemorate the Sun
Bowl Association's Diamond Anniversary.
Olsen succeeded in everything he did because he devoted full
effort to it. He starred in television's "Little House on the Prairie,"
"Father Murphy" and "Aaron's Way," easily transitioning into life after
football. Dick Enberg, his longtime broadcasting partner with NBC
Sports, recently described him as "the complete man."
Enberg was particularly impressed by Olsen's commitment to their weekly NFL telecasts.
In a letter to Olsen, Enberg wrote of his partner's "uncommon
willingness to prepare" and added, "I'd often feel that I had given an
`A' effort in our broadcasts, only to recognize you earned the
Beyond their professional relationship, Enberg also was struck
by Olsen's personality -- "a man of goodness, eager to consciously do
the right thing for yourself, while helping others."
John Ralston, coach of those great Aggie teams who went on to
have more success at Stanford and in the NFL, still raves about Olsen
to this day. Back then, players stayed on the field for most of the
game, playing both offense and defense. For those who picture Olsen
strictly as a defensive tackle in the NFL, it is almost confusing to
hear Ralston's recollections of him.
"He was the best blocker I've ever seen, and I've been around
football for a lot of years," Ralston said. "You'd just run your
running back right behind him. He could do it all. You'd play him 60
minutes, and the last minute would be as good as the first minute."
Chip Rosenbloom, majority owner of the St. Louis Rams, said
Olsen will never be forgotten in Rams history. The team honored him
again at a Dec. 20, 2009, game in St. Louis.
"In Rams history, there are maybe 10 guys who are iconic, and
he's one of them," Rosenbloom said. "There's nobody who is more
Courtesy of Utah State University Sports Information