Merlin Olsen

Actor, Sports commentator, Professional football player
A strapping and celebrated defensive lineman in college and professional football, Merlin Olsen spun his success on the gridiron into an acting career on television series like "Little House on the Prairie" (NBC ... Read more »
Born: 09/15/1940 in Logan, Utah, USA

Filmography

Actor (32)

A Colorado Christmas 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Michael Landon 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Michael Landon: The E! True Hollywood Story 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Children's Miracle Network Telethon 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Fantastic Facts 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

The 43rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Presentation 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Performer

Conquering Pain 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Celebrate the Miracles 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Diet Dilemma 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Super Bowl XXIII 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The Sleeping Beauty 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Narrator

Lifequest 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

Super Night at the Super Bowl 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

Fathers and Sons 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Fathers and Sons 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Time Bomb 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)

Actor

The Juggler of Notre Dame 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Mitchell 1974 (Movie)

Benton (Actor)

Something Big 1971 (Movie)

Morgan's Aide (Actor)

The Undefeated 1969 (Movie)

Big George (Actor)

A Fire in the Sky (TV Show)

Actor

Aaron's Way (TV Show)

Actor

Father Murphy (TV Show)

Actor

Little House on the Prairie (TV Show)

Actor

Time Bomb (Movie)

Jake Calahan (Actor)

Biography

A strapping and celebrated defensive lineman in college and professional football, Merlin Olsen spun his success on the gridiron into an acting career on television series like "Little House on the Prairie" (NBC, 1974-1983) and "Father Murphy" (NBC, 1981-83). Olsen established his talent for defense while at Utah State University, and further proved it as one of the infamous "Fearsome Foursome" of defensemen for the Los Angeles Rams from 1962 to 1976. Olsen dabbled in acting while still a pro, but did not achieve real stardom until he joined the cast of "Prairie," which transformed his image from football powerhouse to kindly, wise soul. He continued to try his hand at series until the late 1980s, before simply enjoying the fruits of his sports career until his death in 2010. A workhorse on the field and a gentleman on screen and off, Olsen's spectacular sports accomplishments and good-natured screen persona made him a favorite of TV viewers for nearly three decades.

Relationships

Clark Olsen Actor

Brother

Merle Olsen

Father

Lynn Olsen

Mother

Nathan Olsen Carpenter

Son
Mother, Susan Wakley

Kelly Olsen Segment Producer

Daughter
Mother, Susan Wakley

Orrin Olsen

Brother

Jill Olsen Executive in Charge of Production

Daughter
Mother, Susan Wakley

Phil Olsen

Brother
Played for the Rams with brother Merlin from 1971-1974

Colleen Olsen

Sister

Gwen Olsen

Sister

Lorraine Olsen

Sister

Ramona Olsen

Sister

Winona Olsen

Sister

Susan Wakley

Wife
Married on March 30, 1962

EDUCATION

Utah State University

Logan, Utah 1962
Was a three-year letterman in football as a defensive tackle and a three-time academic All-American; graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Kappa Phi

Milestones

1988

Played the lead role in the short-lived NBC series, "Aaron's Way"

1982

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

1981

Cast as the masquerading priest in "Father Murphy" (NBC); created by Michael Landon

1980

Teamed with Enberg for the Rose Bowl Game broadcasts

1977

Played Jonathan Garvey on NBC's long-running series, "Little House on the Prairie"

1968

Made acting debut in the movie, "The Undefeated," opposite John Wayne and Rock Hudson

1962

Played defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League

1962

After graduating from Utah State he signed with the Los Angeles Rams for a record amount of $50,000 for two years, plus a signing bonus

Teamed with Dick Enberg as a color commentators for NBC's coverage of the American Football Conference (AFC)

Bonus Trivia

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In 1999, Olsen was ranked number 25 on The Sporting News' list of the "100 Greatest Football Players."

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In 2000, Olsen was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the State of Utah's Top 50 Athletes of the Century.

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In January 2010, Olsen filed a lawsuit against NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox for exposing him to asbestos.

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Olsen is a member of the State of Utah's Sports Hall of Fame, the Utah State University Sports Hall of Fame and USU’s All-Century Football Team.

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Utah State University announced in December of 2009, the intention to honor Olsen by naming the football field at Romney Stadium Merlin Olsen Field.

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Olsen was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, and underwent three courses of chemotherapy. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body's internal organs. It is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.

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