Nov. 16, 2009
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State University will be holding a special ceremony during halftime of its men's basketball game against Saint Mary's on Saturday, Dec. 5 to recognize and honor the outstanding achievements and contributions made by one of its greatest alumnus, Merlin Olsen.
Olsen was a three-year lettermen on the defensive line for Utah State's football team from 1959-61, earning All-American honors during both his junior and senior seasons. During his senior season in 1961, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman.
Olsen also was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State and graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Kappa Phi in 1962 with a degree in finance.
During his senior season, Olsen anchored an Aggie defense that yielded an average of 50.8 rushing yards per game to lead the nation. USU also allowed 88.6 passing yards and 139.4 total yards per game in 1961, and all three of those averages still rank as the best single-season efforts in school history.
The 1961 Aggie defense gave up an average 7.8 points a game, which is second in team history behind Olsen's 1960 team, which allowed 6.5 points per game. Additionally, the Aggie defense held four opponents to less than 100 total yards that season, including Idaho who was held to a school-record 23 total yards in USU's 69-0 win on Oct. 28.
During Olsen's junior and senior seasons, Utah State had a combined 18-3-1 record under head coach John Ralston and were Skyline Conference co-Champions each year as USU played in back-to-back bowl games against New Mexico State (Sun Bowl, 1960) and Baylor (Gotham Bowl, 1961). Utah State finished the season ranked 10th in both the Associated Press and United Press International polls, the highest-ever final ranking for a USU team.
Olsen is a member of the State of Utah's Sports Hall of Fame, the Utah State University Sports Hall of Fame and USU's All-Century Football Team. In 2000, he was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the State of Utah's Top 50 Athletes of the Century.
Following his collegiate career, Olsen was the second overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft and became a charter member of the Los Angeles Rams and the famed "Fearsome Foursome." In 15 professional seasons, he was named to an NFL-record 14 Pro Bowls and did not miss a single game during his career. Along with earning All-Pro honors nine times during his career, Olsen was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1962 and the league's Most Valuable Lineman in 1973.
Olsen, who retired from professional football in 1976, was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and in 1999 was ranked No. 25 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. He was voted to the All-Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1988.
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