Claim to Fame
Place of Death
Los Angeles, CA
Cause of Death
Has Detailed Data (New)
Profile Bio Text
Merlin Jay Olsen (born September 15, 1940) is a former American football player in the National Football League and an actor. He played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 14 of those seasons, a current record shared with Bruce Matthews. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. He also enjoyed success as an actor. When Little House on the Prairie actor Victor French left to star in his own comedy Carter Country in 1977, Olsen was tapped to play Michael Landon`s new sidekick Jonathan Garvey. One memorable quote from Merlin during the series, "I don`t know a thing about football" was when Charles and Jonathan were to coach a boys football team. A couple of years later, Landon cast Olsen as the masquerading priest Father Murphy. He has been a commercial spokesman for FTD Florists. His most recent television acting work was in the short-lived 1988 TV series Aaron`s Way, in which he played the lead role. Olsen has often co-hosted the Children`s Miracle Network telethons, a humanitarian organization founded in 1983 by Marie Osmond and John Schneider.
He is married to Susan Wakely (30 March 1962 - present) . They have 3 children, Kelly, Jill, and Nathan. One of his younger brothers is Phil Olsen. They played together with the Rams from 1971-1974. Brothers, Merlin, Phil and Orrin all played in the NFL. Another brother, Clark, has a son, Hans, who later played professional football, in the family tradition. Merlin is a passionate fisherman, and enjoys fly fishing the most. In total, he has three brothers and five sisters. Colleen, Clark, Lorraine, Gwen, Phil, Winona, Ramona, and Orrin. Merlin is the first son, and second child of nine children born to Merle Barrus and Lynn Jay Olsen. He has four grandchildren.
Olsen passed away on March 10, 2010 from cancer. His death was announced by his brother Orrin, who said he had been treated for mesothelioma, a form of cancer. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and underwent three courses of chemotherapy. In January 2010 he filed a lawsuit against NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox for exposing him to asbestos.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Merlin Jay Olsen
Drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (2nd overall) of the 1962 AFL Draft., Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1962 NFL Draft.
American Football Position
Hall of Fame
Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1982
Country Of Origin
State Of Origin
Merlin Jay Olsen (September 15, 1940 – March 11, 2010) was an American football player, announcer, and actor. He played his entire 15-year professional football career in National Football League (NFL) as a defensive tackle with the Los Angeles Rams. He was selected to the Pro Bowl a record 14 straight times, missing selection only in the last year of his career. This record of 14 seasons selected to play in the Pro Bowl, consecutive or otherwise, is current and shared with former offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, former tight end Tony Gonzalez, and current quarterback Peyton Manning. A recipient of the 1961 Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football, Olsen is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. As an actor he portrayed farmer Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. After leaving that series, he starred in his own NBC drama, Father Murphy.
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