Former Player and Actor Merlin Olsen Died of Mesothelioma

On Thursday (March 11), brother of football legend and TV star Merlin Olsen, Orrin Olsen, announced that the player has died outside of Los Angeles. The 69-year-old passed away after struggling with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining.


Olsen was praised as an “extraordinary person, friend and football player” by NFL commissioner Roger Goodel in his statement. He said that Merlin cared about people, especially is teammates.


Olsen’s teammate with the Rams in Los Angeles, Jack Youngblood, described him as a wonderful player. Though being a ferocious and fearless player on the field, Jack confirmed that Olsen was a true man.


Merlin Olsen was born to Lynn Jay and Merle Barrus Olsen on September 15, 1940 in Logan, Utah. He was the second of nine siblings and the first-born son in the family.


Olsen studied at the University of Utah State and played as a defensive tackle for the college. He was named a three-year letterman in football.


In 1962, Olsen All-American at Utah State and a first-round draft pick of the Los Angles Rams. He was a professional player for the Rams of the National Football League from 1962 to 1976. He made a record in Rams history by achieving 915 tackles in his 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. In 1982, he was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Billy Devaney, manager of the Los Angeles Rams, said in his statement that he and teammates will never forget Merlin Olsen and that Olsen’s death was such a great loss for the team.


In 1976, Olsen retired from the NFL. He started working as an established television actor with a role on “Little House on the Prairie” (1977).  From 1981 to 1983, he performed in his own series “Father Murphy” and in 1988, he acted in the short-lived “Aaron’s Way”.


According to Stan Albrecht, president of Utah State, Olsen Merlin was not only one of Utah’s most decorated athletes, but also one of the most successful and respected people ever to hail from Utah State.


A statue of Olsen is going to be built at the southeast corner of the stadium in Utah State.


Merlin Olsen left alone his wife Susan and three children.