NFL great, sports broadcaster, and actor Merlin Olsen died Wednesday, according to CNN, after a long battle with mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the body’s internal organs.Â For those living through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the name of Merlin Olsen could often be heard being mentioned in one capacity or another on television.Â A star NFL player, Merlin Olsen played for the Los Angeles Rams for 15 years, then became a broadcaster and actor.Â Not only could the big guy be seen on Sunday football games for years, both on and off the field, but he became a regular in many households through his role on the hit drama “Little House On The Prairie.”Â And then there were all those FTD floral commercials.
Merlin Olsen was 69.
An Outland Trophy winner, Olsen was the No. 1 draft of the Los Angeles Rams in 1962.Â Merlin Olsen was selected to go to the Pro Bowl 14 times in his career, a record he shares with only one other football player.Â He still holds the Rams franchise record for number of tackles. He played in 208 professional football games, 198 without a break until he retired.Â As befit a man of his record, Merlin Olsen was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1982 in his first year of eligibility.
After retiring from football in 1976, Olsen went to work in the broadcast booth for NBC Sports.Â He also started acting, landing a role on Michael Landon’s series, “Little House On The Prairie,” in 1977.Â Later he would star in the show, “Aaron’s Sons” and have a short-lived series of his own, “Father Murphy.”
Fellow announcer Dick Enberg, who often shared the broadcast booth with Olsen, noted that he was a man often well-prepared.Â Â In a letter to Olsen, which the University of Utah revealed Thursday, Dick Enberg characterized Olsen as “the complete man.”Â He wrote that Olsen was “…a man of goodness, eager to consciously do the right thing for yourself, while helping others.”