Words of a Legend

"The real test doesn't come when we are doing well..."
Courtesy of Utah State Magazine

Just a couple of hours before USU’s most highly regarded and famous son made his way to center court during the St. Mary’s vs. Utah State basketball game on Dec. 5 — before students in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum spontaneously chanted “Mer-lin Ol-sen, Mer-lin Ol-sen” and then “Agg-ie Le-gend, Agg-ie Le-gend” — Olsen attended a celebratory dinner at the Jim and Carol Laub Athletics-Academic Complex with family and friends. USU President Stan Albrecht and Athletics Director Scott Barnes offered tributes to the man they said has carried the Aggie banner like none other, and then the lights were raised inside adjacent Romney Stadium, illuminating the snowy field that, henceforth, will be known as Merlin Olsen Field. Following is Olsen’s response:

“Thank you. I didn’t really have a place on the program, but I really couldn’t pass up an opportunity with so many wonderful friends and family here this evening. I’m deeply honored, as is Susan and our children and the grandchildren for this honor that will continue to be a part of Aggie tradition. And I’m extremely grateful to have this recognition here at Utah State.

I think, in fact there’s no question about it, I’ve lived a blessed life. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have been born into a family where our parents were dedicated — dedicated their lives really to raising the family — and born into such an incredible family, and then to have been born here in Cache Valley, with a fishing rod and a bicycle and friends to chase with.

I was also lucky enough to get my coordination before I left high school — believe me, that was a test. And I got good enough at football that I got a scholarship to Utah State. Utah State: my time here was magical for me.

But the best thing that ever happened to me here was getting reunited with Susan. We’d met once on a blind date, we met again crossing campus and that kind of set the tempo for the next three and half years, and we’ve been together ever since. She is, without a doubt, the best thing that ever happened to me, and I am so grateful for our beautiful children, our grandchildren, for spouses who are dedicated to them.

It’s been said that we measure our wealth not in terms of dollars, but in terms of friends, and as I look out here tonight, I feel incredibly wealthy. I see so many faces, so many people that we have so truly enjoyed spending time with, and so truly enjoyed sharing our lives with. Many of the most important people in our lives are here this evening. And I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am, and we are, that you would come this distance to share this evening with us.

Again, thank you so much for being here, for being a part of our lives, and for making this such a special occasion. Thank you, again.”

This article originally appeared in the Utah State magazine (Vol. 15, No. 4. Winter 2010). Reprinted with permission.

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