Football and TV star Merlin Olsen dies, age 69

Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:13pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Football star turned actor Merlin Olsen, who was a member of the Los Angeles Rams' defensive line nicknamed the "Fearsome Foursome," died on Thursday of cancer at age 69.

Olsen died at a Los Angeles hospital, his alma mater, Utah State University, said in a statement on its website.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, after a career with the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League that spanned from 1962 to 1976.

During the 1960s, Olsen played defensive lineman with Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy, who collectively became known as the "Fearsome Foursome" for their ability to stop ball-carriers and sack opposing quarterbacks.

Olsen missed only two games during his pro career, said Utah State, which called Olsen the best athlete in the school's history.

"He was a great athlete and an even better man," said Olsen's former agent, Bob Williams of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing in Evanston, Illinois.

After football, Olsen turned to a career in acting and starred in the television drama "Little House on the Prairie" from 1977 to 1982, playing Jonathan Garvey, a friend of the main family in the series about 19th century rural America.

Olsen appeared in a number of other TV series during the 1980s, and he also returned to sports as a commentator for TV coverage of NFL games.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Beech)

<p>Former star NFL football player Merlin Olsen carries the Olympic Flame during the Salt Lake Olympic Torch Relay, through Kearns, Utah, February 8, 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Pool/Todd Warshaw</p>