Merlin Olsen grew up in Utah, where he played football for Utah State University (1959–61). He won the Outland Trophy for best college football interior lineman and earned Phi Beta Kappa honors for academic excellence. In 1962, the "Gentle Giant" was drafted in the first round by both the L.A. Rams (NFL) and the Denver Broncos (AFL). Olsen signed with the Rams, won Rookie of the Year, and played for 15 seasons, during which time he became known for his intellectual approach to football and his gentle manner off the field. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1977, the former football star began a career as an announcer and actor, broadcasting five Super Bowls, and starring in such television shows as Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy. At age 69, Olsen died in California of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of the body's internal organs.