Merlin Jay Olsen
Born September 15, 1940 Logan, Utah
Died March 10, 2010 (aged 69) Duarte, California
Merlin Olsen was a former American football player in the National Football League and an actor. He played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 14 of those seasons, a current record shared with Bruce Matthews. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. As an actor he portrayed Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. After leaving that series, he starred in his own NBC drama, Father Murphy, playing the title role of a traveling priest.
Olsen played professionally (from 1962 to 1976) for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. A leading defensive star of his era, he missed only two games in his 15-season NFL career. He was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1962 and was First-team All-Pro in 1964, and 1966 through 1970. He was voted Second-team All-Pro in 1965, 1973 and 1974.
He also enjoyed success as an actor. When Little House on the Prairie actor Victor French left to star in his own comedy Carter Country in 1977, Olsen was tapped to play Michael Landon’s new sidekick Jonathan Garvey for several years. One memorable quote from Merlin during the series, "I don’t know nothin’ bout football!" was when Charles and Jonathan were to coach a boys football team. A couple of years later, Landon cast Olsen as the eponymous Father Murphy.
Illness and Death of Merlin Olsen
Merlin Olsen was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and underwent three courses of chemotherapy. In January 2010 he filed a lawsuit against NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox for exposing him to asbestos. Merlin’s brother Orrin Olsen announced that he died on March 11, 2010, aged 69, following Merlin’s brief battle with cancer.
Merlin Olsen on LIttle House on the Prairie