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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Merlin Olsen

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Merlin OlsenMerlin Olsen the ramMerlin Olsen later in life

 

Coming out of college, Olsen had offers from both Los Angeles of the NFL and the Denver Broncos of the rival American Football League. He chose the security of the NFL and signed with the Rams. Olsen’s first contract was for around $50,000 for two years, plus a signing bonus. It was 1962, and the average football player salary at the time was around $12,000 a year. He was the first USU Aggie to be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft.[4]

Olsen played professionally (from 1962 to 1976) for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. A leading defensive star of his era, he missed only two games in his 15-season NFL career. He was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1962 and was First-team All-Pro in 1964, and 1966 through 1970. He was voted Second-team All-Pro in 1965, 1973 and 1974.[11]

Olsen almost ended up on offense, but was later moved to the defensive line after a few experiments in practice. Soon he became part of one of the best front fours in NFL history. Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy joined Olsen on the defensive line in 1963 that was nicknamed “The Fearsome Foursome“.[11] He was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Week for week 12 in 1965. Olsen scored his first touchdown in that game.

Throughout the 1960s, this quartet terrorized opposing offenses. Olsen’s play helped the Rams to the playoffs in 1967 and 1969. He was voted the club’s Outstanding Defensive Lineman from 1967–70 by the Los Angeles Rams Alumni. In week 14, 1967, Olsen and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome were named the AP NFL Defensive Players of the Week for their performance against the Baltimore Colts. In the 1970s, Olsen continued his dominant play at defensive tackle and his eleven sacks in 1972 were second on the team. After week 8 in 1972, Olsen was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Week for the third time in his career.[11]

The Rams won the NFC West crown in 1973 through 1976 thanks in part to the play of Olsen. They ranked first in the NFL in run defense in 1973 and 1974 and finished second in sacking opposing passers both years. In 1973 Olsen was voted the NFLPA NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year and the next season, 1974, he was the recipient of Bert Bell Award as the NFL MVP as voted by the Maxwell Club. Olsen accepted the award “on behalf of all who toil in the NFL trenches”.

Olsen’s last game was the NFC Championship game in 1976 at Bloomington, Minnesota. The Vikings took advantage on a freak play early in the game. A blocked field goal returned 90 yards for a touchdown shocked the Rams in the first quarter. The defense was later victimized by a couple of big plays by the Vikings. The Rams came up short, losing 24–13, bringing the storied career of the Rams finest defensive tackle to an end.

Olsen made the Pro Bowl a record 14 times, only missing it in his final year. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 in his first year of eligibility; he selected his college position coach Tony Knap as his presenter.[12] In 1999, Olsen was ranked 25th on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.[13

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Merlin Olsen.

Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games 208
Sacks 94
Interceptions 1
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