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Friday, March 12, 2010
One fan's tribute to Merlin Olsen

By Mike Sando

Cy from Los Angeles passed along a personal thoughts on Merlin Olsen after the Rams great's passing Wednesday. They were heartfelt. I wanted to share them here before passing along an Olsen story from Dick Enberg.
I don't typically mourn public figures publicly, but I am so saddened by the death of Merlin Olsen. Growing up as a sports kid in L.A., you knew he was a big deal and for all the right reasons. While playing ball in my teens, I had Olsen's poster in my room (along with those of Dick Butkus, Bob Lilly, The Doors and Peter Fonda/Easy Rider in day-glo).

I used to wear his No. 74 in Pop Warner and high school out of admiration and respect. He seemed like such a nice guy and the quintessential Gentle Giant -- ferocious on the field, while kind and placid off it. Olsen was the kind of man a father could comfortably point out to a son as a role model; the kind of athlete that sports and kids sorely miss.

He was a tremendous athlete -- physically gifted, studious and smart, broadly intelligent, respectful, fully prepared for life after football with never a hint of impropriety. A gentleman in every sense of the word. He also struck me as a man men would strive to be: as brutishly tough and determined as they come, yet scholarly, kind, considerate and dignified; a class act from start to finish. The world would be a better place if more people were like Merlin Olsen. It's less of one without him.

Enberg, Olsen's former broadcast partner at NBC, shared an endearing story on Sirius radio Friday. Enberg told how Olsen had grown up rather simply in Utah and his parents had never been to an NFL game. They made the trip to Los Angeles and were pretty deep into their first game watching Olsen at the Coliseum when Olsen sensed something amiss.

Olsen looked toward where his parents had been sitting and, to his shock, saw his father walking onto the field. Turns out the family had decided to leave the game early and Olsen's father was coming onto the field to inform his son of their plans.