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March 16, 2010

Football Hall of Famer and Actor Merlin Olsen Dies at 69

Following an esteemed career, including induction into the NFL Hall of Fame, he became a TV star with Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy and more.

Merlin Olsen, a former NFL star with the Los Angeles Rams who was inducted into the football Hall of Fame, and later enjoyed a successful career as an actor and broadcaster, died in Duarte, California, on March 11, 2010. Olsen, who was 69 years old, had been fighting mesothelioma lung cancer.

A defensive lineman who was honored as an All-American at Utah State University, he was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angles Rams in 1962.

With the Rams, he joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier to became part of a quartet of daunting defensive linemen dubbed the “Fearsome Foursome” for their skill at stopping or holding back rival offensive units. In 1968, the Rams established an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season.

In his first season with the team, Olsen was named rookie of the year. He remains the Rams’ all-time leader in career tackles with 915. During his storied career, he was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, which began with his rookie year.

Following his retirement from football in 1976, Olsen went on to become a renowned football analyst on NBC Television, often paired with partner Dick Enberg.

He then branched into commercials, and eventually became an actor branched into dramatic acting with a long-running role on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie. He also played the title role in the NBC drama Father Murphy, and starred in the series Fathers and Sons and Aaron’s Way.

In December, Utah State honored Olsen by naming the football field at Romney Stadium Merlin Olsen Field. The school is also planning a statue of Olsen at the stadium.

The Rams, who now play in St. Louis, also honored Olsen during a game December 20 of last year, with a video tribute narrated by Enberg. His name is also part of the Ring of Fame inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, along with other Rams greats.

Survivors include his wife, three children, three brothers, five sisters and several grandchildren.

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