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Olsen, Hall of Famer and member of 'Fearsome Foursome,' dies

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  • Olsen, Hall of Famer and member of 'Fearsome Foursome,' dies

    SALT LAKE CITY -- Labeled fierce for his relentless play as a Hall of Fame defensive lineman, Merlin Olsen also was gentle enough for a role on one of television's most wholesome shows and as a spokesman in a well-known flower advertising campaign.

    Olsen's deep, rich voice and sincerity made him a success both as an actor and in the broadcast booth, where he offered insights to the game he played so well for so long.

    Olsen died early Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

    "He was ferocious and fearless on the football field and then the other probably more important aspect of his personality was he was a true gentleman," said fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, Olsen's teammate with the Rams in Los Angeles. "We all know what a wonderful, tremendous football player he was, but he was so much more than that."

    Whether it was his role in the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line or the characters he played on "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy," Olsen had the versatility to break through to any audience. He was even the spokesman for a well-known FTD ad campaign in the 1980s -- a 6-foot-5 giant pitching flower bouquets.

    Utah State, Olsen's alma mater, said he died outside of Los Angeles. He was diagnosed last year with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining often linked to asbestos. He filed a lawsuit last year, claiming he contracted the disease as a result of being exposed to asbestos on construction sites where he worked as a child and young adult.

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement lauding Olsen as an "extraordinary person, friend and football player."

    "He cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him," Goodell said. "Merlin was a larger-than-life person, literally and figuratively, and leaves an enormously positive legacy."

    Olsen was an All-American at Utah State and a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1962. He joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams' storied "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line, known for either stopping or knocking backward whatever offenses it faced. The Rams set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season in 1968.

    Youngblood joined the Rams as a rookie in 1971, backing up Jones as Olsen continued to anchor the other side of the line. Youngblood remembered Olsen telling him as a young player to push to be great not just on every play but with "every heartbeat."

    "When you stop and think of Merlin on the field, he accomplished things that will never be accomplished again," Youngblood said. "If it hadn't been for Merlin Olsen, I wouldn't have turned out to be the football player that he helped mold and make."

    Former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer remembered in his 1968 book "Instant Replay," co-written with late sportswriter and broadcaster Dick Schaap, dreading going up against Olsen.

    "I'll be facing Merlin Olsen, and that's definitely work, not fun," Kramer wrote. "Merlin never lets up. He'll run right over you no matter what the score is."

    Olsen was rookie of the year for the Rams in 1962 and remains the franchise's all-time leader in career tackles with 915. He was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, a string that started his rookie year.

    "Merlin Olsen is one of the best players in the history of the NFL," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said in a statement released by the team Thursday afternoon. "His passing is a tremendous loss for the Rams. He will always be remembered as an ambassador for the organization as well as the National Football League."

    After football, Olsen played the role of Jonathan Garvey, friend to Michael Landon's Charles Ingalls, on "Little House." Olsen later starred in his own series, "Father Murphy," from 1981 to 1983 and the short-lived "Aaron's Way" in 1988.

    Olsen also stayed in the game as a broadcaster. He wasn't just some former player who knew football and would weave tales of his playing days into the broadcast. He was well-spoken and smart. The son of a former school teacher, Olsen graduated summa cum laude at Utah State with a degree in economics and earned a master's in economics in between his 15 NFL seasons.

    Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. The Rams drafted Olsen third overall in 1962, and he spent the next 15 years with the team before retiring in 1976.

    "I love the game of football," Olsen said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. "There was some special magic out on that piece of grass out there on that field. And win or lose, when I came off that field, it was always coming down. I am sure that the thing I miss most about the game is the people, the very special people and those incredible highs and lows."

    Utah State honored Olsen in December by naming the football field at Romney Stadium "Merlin Olsen Field." Because of his illness, Olsen's alma mater didn't want to wait until football season and made the announcement during halftime of a basketball game.

    Olsen was well enough to attend, but he didn't speak at the event. He stood and smiled as he waved to fans during a standing ovation and chants of "Merlin Olsen!" and "Aggie Legend!"

    Utah State also is planning to erect a statue of Olsen at the southeast corner of the stadium.

    The Rams also honored Olsen during a game Dec. 20, with a video tribute narrated by Dick Enberg, Olsen's longtime broadcast partner. Olsen didn't attend because of his health. His name already was part of the Ring of Fame inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, along with other franchise standouts.

    Olsen was voted NFC defensive lineman of the year in 1973 and the league MVP in 1974, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. Brothers Phil and Orrin also played in the NFL.

    Olsen is survived by his wife, Susan, and three children. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.

    Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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  • dgr828
    Lamar Lundy, 71; part of Rams fearsome foursome (R.I.P.)
    by dgr828
    Lamar Lundy, 71; part of feared Rams line
    By Claire Nolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    February 25, 2007

    Lamar Lundy, who along with Los Angeles Rams teammates Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier formed the Fearsome Foursome defensive line that battered NFL offensives during the 1960s, has died. He was 71.

    Lundy died Saturday at Reid Hospital in his hometown of Richmond, Ind., after a long illness, said Kevin Fouche of Community Family Funeral Home in Richmond.

    Diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis in the early 1970s, Lundy also suffered from diabetes, Graves' disease and prostate cancer and had undergone surgery to have a pacemaker installed.

    "He was a remarkable human being and a great friend and teammate," Olsen said Saturday. " ... He suffered through a great many physical ailments, but he kept his good humor in spite of all that."

    The Fearsome Foursome played as a unit for only four seasons, from 1963 through 1966, but the aggresive playing style and outsized personalities of the Rams' front four ensured their place in National Football League history. Jones and Olsen were both elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Although the Rams posted losing records in the early '60s, The Fearsome Foursome served as the foundation of Coach George Allen's rebuilding efforts late in the decade.

    "What made that defensive line so formidable was that we believed we could control the tempo of the game," Olsen said. "We believed we could really impact what was happening by forcing turnovers, which were so important to our offense. We focused all our energy on the quarterback. We wanted them to lay awake at night thinking of us."

    Lundy spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Rams. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound end was considered the least spectacular of the Fearsome Foursome, but he was its anchor and provided a steady preseence on the line.

    "He was very big for a defensive end, very tall," Olsen said. "He used those long, long arms to keep the offensive linemen away from him. He was an extremely effective pass rusher."

    Lundy's prowess is not easily quantified, because he played in an era before the quarterback sack was an official statistic. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns in his career and was named to the 1959 Pro Bowl team.

    Drafted out of Purdue in 1957 as a defensive lineman, Lundy played tight end and slot back on offense his first three seasons, catching 35 passes for 584 yards and six touchdowns.

    He moved to the defensive line in 1960. Jones was drafted in 1961 and played briefly on the offensive line before moving to defense. Olsen was an immediate starter as a rookie in 1962, and Grier joined them in 1963 when the Rams acquired him in a trade with the New...
    -02-25-2007, 03:21 PM
  • AvengerRam_old
    R.I.P. Lamar Lundy
    by AvengerRam_old
    Saturday, February 24, 2007
    'Fearsome Foursome' member Lundy dies at 71

    Associated Press

    RICHMOND, Ind. -- Lamar Lundy, a member of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s, died Saturday. He was 71.

    He died after a long illness in his hometown, the Community Family Funeral Home told The Associated Press.

    Lundy spent his entire 13-year career with the Rams (1957-69). He teamed with Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones -- both future Pro Football Hall of Famers -- and Roosevelt Grier to form a mighty defensive line. In 1968, the defense featuring the four set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season.

    "He was a tremendous performer and a better person," Olsen said in Saturday's Palladium-Item newspaper.

    Olsen called Lundy, 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, the anchor of the line.

    "He really was the stabilizing force, Mr. Consistency," Olsen said. "He was an incredibly important part of that equation."

    Lundy became the first black scholarship football player at Purdue, the school said. He led Richmond High School to unbeaten football seasons in 1952 and 1953 and to the state's Final Four in basketball in 1953.

    Funeral arrangements were not yet announced.
    -02-24-2007, 01:41 PM
  • Truth
    Jack Youngblood...My Hero
    by Truth
    I know this is a long article. I know it was printed before #85 was inducted into the HOF. However, It's a great article about the man, and the team he played for.

    Will Hall of Fame vote be another narrow miss for Youngblood?
    By John Turney
    Monday, Jan. 22, 2001

    Jack Youngblood
    (photo by Evan Freed)
    Few people attain legendary status in any endeavor, much less in a sport like football where players can get lost in anonymity of face masks and uniform numbers. Jack Youngblood was one of those few who do attain legendary status, although the Hall of Fame has yet to call his name.

    Former Rams teammate and Hall of Fame DE Deacon Jones once said, "I respect Jack Youngblood on one basis. That basis (is) that he was a man. A man, understand? He wanted to learn this business, he put forth the effort needed and I will respect that until the day I die. And if I had anything to do with it, I would put Jack Youngblood in the Hall of Fame — he earned it". Leave it to Deacon to make a point. That point being that most, if not all, of those who played with him, against him or coached him felt the same way.

    Youngblood was a man who was respected by opponents, coaches, teammates and fans. They respected him not for what he said, but what he did on the football field. What most people probably remember about Youngblood is his playing in the Super Bowl with a fractured fibula. He was chop-blocked by two Cowboys offensive linemen in the NFC divisional playoffs that season (1979), and his fibula snapped "like a pencil." Youngblood had the trainers tape him up, and he went out and got a fourth-quarter sack on Cowboys QB Roger Staubach. "Got me a sack on a cracked leg," laughs Jack. "There may not be too many guys who can say that!"

    For the NFC championship game and Super Bowl XIV, Youngblood wore a fitted leg brace that allowed him to play. He even played a week after the Super Bowl in the Pro Bowl with that brace. Above and beyond the call of duty, most would say. Above and beyond the call of sanity, said others.

    Joe Bugel, now the Chargers OL coach, said, "When I think of Jack Youngblood, I think of ultimate toughness. Undersized, ultimate tough, plays with broken leg, what you always thought about the old NFL."

    Those things he did on the football field were amazing by any standard, and the awards, honors and accolades were numerous. Youngblood was a five-time consensus All-Pro, played in seven Pro Bowls, was Pro Football Weekly's Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1975 as well as UPI’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award from Kansas City's respected Committee of 101 in both 1975 and ’76.

    Youngblood was the Rams' MVP three times, tied with Eric Dickerson for the most such awards in club history. He led the Rams in...
    -01-02-2006, 10:38 PM
  • RamWraith
    McCutcheon Inducted into Texas Panhandle Hall of Fame
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    ST. LOUIS – One of the most prolific runners in Rams history, Lawrence McCutcheon recently was inducted into the Texas Panhandle Hall of Fame. In a ceremony held in Amarillo, Tex., about 60 miles from his hometown of Plainview, McCutcheon was one of three individuals that received the honor.

    “It’s a nice honor,” said McCutcheon, who now serves as director of player personnel for the Rams. “I got a chance to see a lot of guys that I played with and against in high school and got a chance to see my family. It was a really nice.”

    McCutcheon attended an all-Black Booker T. Washington High School for his first three years, but after Washington closed, he transferred to Plainview High School after full integration in 1967. On Plainview’s first integrated football team, he rushed for 589 yards as well as starring at linebacker as the team posted a 7-3 record, the school’s first winning record in 10 years.

    “As far as racial situations, I never had any issues or problems with that,” said McCutcheon. “I stayed at Booker T. Washington because I was comfortable with all of my friends and that is where I had gone all of my life. The racial part of it, I had no problem with it. I played Little League baseball and pickup basketball with those guys at the high school and we always had no problem with that issue.”

    McCutcheon went on to play college football at Colorado State, where he set more than 20 school and Western Athletic Conference records in his three years at the school, later becoming a member of Colorado State’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

    He became a third-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1972, and when he left the team after the 1979 season, the four-time Pro Bowler finished as the organization’s all-time leading rusher with 6,186 yards and continues to hold the record for most playoff rushing yards (687).

    “It’s a great honor for everybody in this organization to witness Clutch receive this award,” said Rams General Manager Charley Armey. “He has not only been a great running back in this team’s history, but he has been a great employee for the St. Louis Rams. We are very proud of him and very proud of his achievements.”

    The Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame was started in 1958 from an idea suggested by Putt Powell, longtime Amarillo Globe News sportswriter.
    -02-18-2005, 05:47 AM
  • ramsanddodgers
    Youngblood Right At Home In Florida
    by ramsanddodgers

    Tampa Bay Online

    Published: January 29, 2009

    For Jack Youngblood - Super Bowl hero, Pro Football Hall of Famer and college All-American - the tiny Panhandle refuge of Monticello is more than his hometown.

    It's a state of mind.

    Youngblood, a ferocious defensive end who played 14 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, explored Hollywood's trappings. He tried some acting. He did commercials. He made radio and television appearances.

    It wasn't for him.

    In the end - after a football career that made him a celebrity - Youngblood never strayed far from his beginning.

    "Last time I saw Jack, it was down at the co-op," said Van Collins, an old hunting buddy who manages property in Monticello. "Jack was buying some horse feed. Just standing there, blending in. He never waves his own flag.

    "I caught his eye and laughed at him. 'Jackie, where you been?'"

    Not far away.

    "The homeland is awfully special to me," Youngblood said. "It's my identity, a genuine place. It helps me stay connected to my upbringing."

    He now lives in Winter Park, where he is division president for an ethanol fuel company. But at every opportunity, he's back at his 300-acre ranch in Monticello. The locals remember when Youngblood's NFL buddies regularly visited for quail hunting, then some lights-out eating.

    "When that crew came to town, you'd best stock up on your groceries," said James "Pot" Clark, 76, a longtime friend of the Youngblood family. "Some of those football players, they thought they'd died and gone to heaven.

    "That gave Jack a lot of pride. His teammates got to see what he was all about."

    Youngblood, 59, used to raise cattle until about seven years ago. "I was getting too old to be a cowboy," he said. Now he grows pine trees.

    His precious corner of the world hasn't changed much in the past four decades. The county, a 2,700-resident sliver of land that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Georgia's state line, still doesn't have a red light. It's about a half-hour east of Tallahassee, but it's a place that can be easy to miss.

    Funny, but big-time football nearly missed on Jack Youngblood.

    An Unexpected Career

    In 1966 he was a 6-foot-3, 196-pound middle linebacker for Coach Brent Hall's Jefferson County Tigers. Nobody wanted Youngblood. An assistant coach for Florida State University, his dream school, left at halftime of a game, declaring that Youngblood never would play college football because he was "too skinny" and "did too much arm-tackling."

    It hardly mattered that Jefferson County improved from a 5-5 team to a snarling defense-first unit that was stalking...
    -01-29-2009, 07:56 PM