March 12, 2010 / 12:12 AM / in 8 years

Football and TV star Merlin Olsen dies aged 69

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Football star turned actor Merlin Olsen, who was a key member of the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive line nicknamed the “Fearsome Foursome,” died at the age of 69 on Thursday after a battle with cancer.

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

The sports star 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 in their tracks and sack opposing quarterbacks.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Olsen “cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him.”

Chip Rosenbloom, owner of the Rams, who have moved to St. Louis, said Olsen “lived as he played, with ferocity and determination.”

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 in 1977 made his first appearance in the television drama “Little House on the Prairie.” He played Jonathan Garvey, a friend of the main family in the series set in 19th century rural America.

In 1981, Olsen moved on to star in the series “Father Murphy,” playing a kind-hearted frontiersman in that show, which lasted until 1983.

He also returned to sports as a commentator for TV coverage of NFL games, analyzing plays during broadcasts.

He is survived by wife Susan, and their three children.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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