On the Tunney Side of the Street 36

by Jim Tunney

  After Further Review…..You have read here many times about the need for athletes to be role models.  You need look no further than MERLIN OLSEN.  Merlin passed away last week after a courageous battle with cancer.  Merlin was private during his battle.

Merlin has been battling all his life.  As a 3-time All-American at Utah State, he played both offense and defense, was a consensus All-American and won the Outland trophy as the Best College Lineman in his senior year.  An NFL first round draft choice by the (then) Los Angeles Rams, Merlin played 15 seasons anchoring what was called "The Fearsome Foursome."  During his tenure as a Ram, he was selected to the Pro-Bowl 14 times and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Merlin stood out.  He played alongside 3 African-Americans; Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier and David "Deacon" Jones.  The NFL in the early 60's struggled with black-white relationships - but not that foursome!  Deacon was no saint on the field and at times obstreperous.  As a referee, I could always rely on Merlin to calm Deacon down and to keep his teammates under control.

However, what you have just read is only a small part of what I know about Merlin.  He became my friend, after he left the  playing field.  His career as an NFL broadcast analyst with partner Dick Enberg was second-to-none.  He was clear, concise and told the truth about a play or player as he saw it. 

Graduating Summa Cum Laude from Utah State, Merlin was cerebral both on and off the field.  As an example, I was assigned (by the NFL) to give a "rules talk" to the Rams.  Imagine 100+ players who "had to" sit and listen to an official explain what they could and couldn't do during a game.  When it came to the Q&A, Merlin raised his hand and said, "Jim, what if, indeed, a player ..."  That's as far as he got, when his teammates said "INDEED?" and laughed in friendly jest.

Merlin loved the game of football and played it with his heart and soul on EVERY play.  In those days, defensive linemen played EVERY down and no matter what the score, Merlin played as if it were his last down.  And now he has played his "last down" with the same vigor and battling that he did his entire life.  I will miss #74.  His legacy of doing the right thing and being good to others will always remain with me.

Will you follow in the footprints Merlin Olsen left?

To learn more about Jim Tunney, or if your organization would like to secure Jim as a speaker, please visit www.tunneysideofsports.com and click on Jim Tunney www.twitter.com/jimtunney.