Merlin Olsen

Merlin Olsen, the Hall of Fame football star-turned-actor and commentator, has died. He was 69.

Olsen died Thursday of mesothelioma at City of Hope hospital outside of Los Angeles, Utah State University, his alma mater, said.

A three-time academic All-American at Utah State, Olsen signed with the Los Angeles Rams after college in 1962, where he became a star defensive tackle. In 1963, he was joined on the line by Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy to form the Fearsome Foursome, a powerhouse defensive lineup that terrorized offenses with strength and nimbleness.

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During his 15-year career, Olsen missed only two games and was named to the Pro Bowl team every year except for his last season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Following retirement, Olsen joined NBC as a color commentator alongside Dick Enberg and co-starred on the network's Little House on the Prairie as Jonathan Garvey, Michael Landon's sidekick. In 1981, Landon tapped Olsen to headline his own series, Father Murphy, in which the former NFL star played a masked priest who helps a group of orphans find a home. His last acting role was on NBC's short-lived 1988 drama Aaron's Way.

Olsen was also a spokesman for FTD Florists for several years.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and underwent several courses of chemotherapy. Late last year, he sued NBC and 20th Century Fox, claiming they exposed him to asbestos, which resulted in mesothelioma.

Olsen is survived by his brothers, Phil, Orrin and Clark; his wife, Susan; their children Nathan, Jill and Kelly; his sisters Colleen, Lorraine, Gwen, Winona and Ramona; and several grandchildren.