BIGPLAY’s NFL 100: 100 Personalities From the NFL’s First 100 Years: #18 Merlin Olsen

The life and times of Merlin Olsen

Photo Courtesy of Codey Dauch, BIGPLAY

With so many players, coaches and executives in the history of the NFL picking 100 for this list was a difficult task. Often there was precedence given to people who after their NFL career was over did something interesting or extraordinary. Merlin Olsen exemplifies this idea. He was an NFL player for 15 years and after that, he became an announcer and actor.

Photo Courtesy of AP

Olsen played defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams as part of a defensive line group known as the “Fearsome Foursome.” He was a 14-time Pro Bowler, only missing out in his final season. He played at a time before many defensive statistics were kept but was considered a dominant force on the interior part of the defensive line.

Some of his other accolades include being named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1962, a member of the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade Team, a member of the 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team and he is a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Photo Courtesy of AP

As a player, Olsen, who was great, played alongside other greats like Deacon Jones and Rosie Greer. When he took his foray into acting, he also worked alongside greats like John Wayne, Rock Hudson and George Peppard. His most iconic roles were as Jonathan Garvey in Little House on the Prairie and John Michael Murphy in Father Murphy.

Olsen also had a successful career as an announcer. He worked for NBC alongside the legendary Dick Enberg in the latter part of the 1970s as well as most of the 1980s. They announced four Super Bowls and nine Rose Bowls together. In 1990 and 1991, Olsen worked for CBS along with Dick Stockton.

Finally, Olsen used his fame to help others. He was a big-hearted individual and would often be a host of the Children’s Miracle Network telethons.  

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