There were not many like Merlin Olsen, and now there is one less.
A great player out of Utah State, and by the way one of the few guys who can claim to have played a bowl game in New York City (the Gotham Bowl, which was short lived and is even less remembered), Merlin Olsen played 15 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and made the Pro Bowl in 14 of those years.
In 15 seasons, how many games do you think he missed?
Two. The word “great” is often overused, but never when it has been applied to him.
His brother Phil played for the Denver Broncos and my heart goes out to Phil and to the entire Olsen family.
For many years Merlin Olsen was the color man alongside Dick Enberg for Broncos nationally televised games on NBC, and there truly could not be two finer gentlemen sitting next to each other doing a game. Long before Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth or Phil Simms, Olsen was the color voice for a generation of Broncos fans.
I got to know him fairly well over those NBC football years, and he was never, ever less than a perfect gentleman in every way.
A genuine gentle giant on the field, off the field his gracious personality closely resembled the one he had as his TV personal in the televisions show “Father Murphy,” in which he starred.
During all those years playing for the Rams and with a television and acting career that followed, Merlin early on established residency in Los Angeles and never left the area.
For many years he lived in one of those picture perfect, idyllic tree-lined areas in Pasadena, truly a slice of upscale American that was hard to match.
I would always give him a call when the Broncos visited LA to play the Raiders, even if he was not doing our game that week, and he always found time to talk, never acting that the Hall of Fame player or famous actor and TV pitchman that he was, but just as a regular guy, with a regular family, telling me about his kids and asking about mine.
Merlin Olsen was unequivocally one of the most elegant gentlemen with whom I have had the pleasure of working in my career, and he will be missed by all.
Here is a statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the passing of Olsen.
“Merlin Olsen was an extraordinary person, friend and football player. He was a tremendous Hall of Fame football player who then became an accomplished football broadcaster and actor. In recent years, it was an honor to work with Merlin on developing improvements for retired players. We all experienced how passionate and effective he was on that issue. He cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him. Merlin was a larger-than-life person, literally and figuratively, and leaves an enormously positive legacy. On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our deepest sympathy to Merlin’s wife Susan and the Olsen family.”