Actor and former National Football League player Merlin Olsen passed yesterday at the age of 69. The cause was mesothelioma.
Merlin Olsen was born in Logan, Utah on September 15, 1940. He attended Utah State University, where he played American football as a defensive tackle. Once he left college, Olsen has offers from the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League and the Denver Broncos of the American Football League. He signed with the Rams, for whom he played from 1962-1976. Following his NFL career, Olsen became an American football analyst for NBC. His contract with NBC stipulated that he have the opportunity to act.
Olsen's acting career began before his NFL career had even ended. He appeared in a small part in the 1969 feature film The Undefeated. Afterwards he guest starred on such shows as Petticoat Junction, The Brian Keith Show, and Kung Fu. He appeared in the films One More Train to Rob, Something Big, and Mitchell. In 1977 he was cast as Jonathan Garvey, Pa Wilder's sidekick on Little House on the Prairie. He left that series to star in his own show, Father Murphy, which ran from 1981 to 1983. In 1986 he starred in the short lived series Fathers and Sons. In 1988 he starred in the series Aaron's Way, his last work as an actor.
For the most part Merlin Olsen starred in the sort of shows I do not generally watch, but he always seemed to be an appealing and likeable fellow. He was certainly well suited to the role of the gentle giant. He also made the sort of shows of which too little is seen on television now--family oriented programmes. While I cannot say that I am necessarily a fan of his oeuvre, I must say I was saddened to hear of his passing.