Story updated: 3/15/10, 9:50 a.m.
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Merlin Olsen passed away early Thursday at the age of 69. He lost his battle with mesothelioma which he was diagnosed in the last year.
Olsen starred for 15 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and was a leader of the team’s famed “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line that also included Hall of Famer Deacon Jones along with Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy.
He also served on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees since December 2005.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Merlin’s passing. He was not only an extraordinary football player but just a superb human being,” stated Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry.
“He was a dear friend to all of us at the Hall of Fame and to all of his fellow Hall of Famers. His support of the Hall over the years, including his past five as a member of our Board, will long be appreciated,” Perry continued. “We extend our condolences to his wife Susan and his entire family.”
Following a stellar career at Utah State, Olsen was drafted by the Rams in the first round, 3rd player overall, in the 1962 NFL Draft. He was also the second player picked in the AFL draft that year when the Denver Broncos used their first round pick on him. Olsen opted for the NFL and quickly developed into a devastating force on the Rams’ defense. He earned All-NFL acclaim by his third season and was named All-NFL five additional times from 1966 to 1970.
“We never had a bad game from Merlin Olsen. You always got a good game from Oly and, more often than not, you got a great game,” once stated Hall of Fame coach George Allen who coached the Rams from 1966 to 1970 when Olsen was at his peak.
No player in NFL history has earned more Pro Bowl selections than Olsen. He was named to the NFL All-Star game a record 14 straight times beginning in the 1962 season.
One of nine children, Olsen was born on September 15, 1940 in Logan, Utah. He used his trademark speed, size, and agility to excel in football at Logan High School. Although recruited by numerous colleges, Merlin chose to stay close to home and picked Utah State. He became a star with the Aggies and was named All-America in his junior and senior seasons and was the 1961 Outland Trophy winner as the best collegiate lineman. Following his senior year, he made appearances in the East-West Game, the Hula Bowl (named lineman of the game), and the College All-Star Game before turning pro.
In all, Olsen played in 208 games in his NFL career that included an impressive streak of 198 straight games that ended with his retirement following the 1976 season. He played on six division winning teams and in three NFC championship games.
Olsen embarked on a long acting and broadcasting career following his football playing days.
A member of two NFL All-Decade Teams, 1960 and 1970s, and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, Olsen as was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
A private memorial service will be held on Tuesday, March 16.
Contributions for college students can be in made in honor of Merlin at:
Merlin and Susan Olsen Scholarship Fund
Utah State University
1420 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-1420
Merlin Olsen’s HOF Bio
A Field for Merlin
Three Olsen brothers played in the NFL – Merlin, Phil, and Orrin
NFL’s All-Decade Teams - 1960s | 1970s
PHOTO GALLERY: Merlin Olsen, Class of 1982