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03/11/2011

One year ago: Merlin Olsen, Ram who jumped to TV

March 11, 2011 |  6:00 am

New olsenOlsen murphyMerlin Olsen wasn't just a football player, although he was a very good one.

After 15 seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Rams' famed "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line, Olsen became a familiar face on television as an actor, broadcaster and commercial spokesman. His ability to excel in more than one field didn't surprise people who played and worked with him.

"I was amazed by his size (6 feet 5 and 275 pounds) just like everybody else, but more than that at his great intelligence," former CBS analyst Irv Cross, who played three years with Olsen on the Rams, told The Times in 1982. "His ability to analyze the game was something everybody on the team recognized. It was just unbelievable that any one person would be gifted in so many ways."

He was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in finance in 1962 and a master's in economics in 1970.

Olsen, who died a year ago at age 69, was the NFL's most valuable player in 1974 and appeared 14 times in the Pro Bowl. He then spent 15 seasons as an analyst for NBC and CBS and acted in such television shows as "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy."

"Merlin's own character was such that you adapted it to his [television] character," said Kent McCray, producer of "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy," a 1981-83 series that starred Olsen as a frontiersman disguised as a priest who was trying to help a group of orphans. "In many instances, it was difficult for him to get mad. ... It's impossible to think of him as one of the Fearsome Foursome."

 RELATED:

Merlin Olsen dies at 69

Olsen helped make the Rams fun to watch on defense

Sam Farmer column: Olsen made quite a first impression on Rams

Photos: A look at Olsen's careers in sports, acting and broadcasting

-- Keith Thursby

Photos: (top) Merlin Olsen grabs quarterback Archie Manning in a 1972 game. Credit: Associated Press

(bottom) Olsen acts in "Father Murphy" in 1981. Credit: Associated Press

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