Former NFL star, actor Merlin Olsen dies
March 11, 2010 1:11 p.m. EST
Merlin Olsen was a defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and acted on "Little House on the Prairie."
"Little House on the Prairie" actor dies of cancer at 69
Defensive lineman was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982
Olsen starred in "Father Murphy" on TV and was spokesman for FTD
(CNN) -- Hall of Fame football player and actor Merlin Olsen has died after a long battle with cancer, the St. Louis Rams said Thursday.
He was 69.
Known as much for his brain as his brawn, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive tackle also graduated summa cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi from Utah State University in 1962 and earned a master's degree in economics in the off-season during his 15-year career.
"Merlin Olsen was a coach's player. Punctual, steady, gifted, a quiet leader, a player you could always count on," says his biography on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Web site. "He was a standout as a rookie and thereafter stood out in every game he played for the Rams in a 15-year career. Every game. Fifteen years."
Olsen played in 14 Pro Bowls, made two All-Decade teams and was a six-time All-Pro. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
He accomplished all those feats while playing for an often less-than-stellar Los Angeles Rams team. The Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.
"It was Olsen's hard luck to perform for many mediocre teams in Los Angeles -- he never won a Super Bowl -- but he had as much to do as any other individual with glamorizing defensive football in the NFL," his NFL biography says.
Olsen was a defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams from 1962 to 1976. Wearing No. 71, he was part of the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" line with Deacon Jones, Roosevelt Grier and Lamar Lundy. His brother Phil also played for the Rams.
On television, Olsen played the gentle Jonathan Garvey opposite Michael Landon on "Little House on the Prairie" from 1977 to 1981, and the lead role in "Father Murphy" from 1981 to 1983, according to entertainment database imdb.com.
Parlaying his gentle giant image, Olsen for many years was the spokesman for floral wire service FTD.