Friday, March 12, 2010

Merlin Olsen, RIP

Merlin Olsen was, put simply, a good guy. And, in his first profession, truly one of the greats.

In his 15-year NFL career (five times longer than the average), he never missed a game. He was part of the legendary "Fearsome Foursome" which included other future Hall-of-Famers Deacon Jones and Rosie Greer. It is a measure of his greatness that he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his very first year of eligibility, after selection to the Pro Bowl fourteen consecutive times, a record matched (by Bruce Matthews), but not exceeded more than three decades after his retirement.

However, many people of a certain age probably know him better for the wholesome characters he played on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy. In those series, he played gentle giants, and notwithstanding his credentials as a defensive lineman, and one had more than an inkling that he was typecast in those roles. He is, after all, survived by a wife of 47 years, three children, and five grandchildren.

And in a profession where most stories on players are about their bad behavior, Olsen was an exception to the stereotype. While playing, he earned a master's degree in economics. He was a summa cum laude graduate of Utah State University, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. No intellectual slouch, was Olsen.

My favorite memories of Olsen, though, are from his fifteen-year career as a sportscaster, as one-half of my favorite broadcasting team, along with Dick Enberg. I simply enjoyed his cerebral comments on the game, and have many vivid memories of watching games with my grandfather. Though my grandfather preferred Pat Summerall.

Merlin Olsen. RIP.

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