Hall of Fame: How Merlin Olsen became The Statue of USU football

Hall of Fame: How Merlin Olsen became The Statue of USU football

by Daniel Olsen

There aren’t many statues in Logan, Utah. Outside the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum, there is a statue of a bull that students sometimes ride in their best birthday suit to become an “Ultimate Aggie”. Next to the Old Main Building, there is a block A that students stand on and kiss at midnight to become a True Aggie. They can only do so when it’s homecoming weekend (or a full moon or A week). The most famous statue of all for the original Aggie superstar sits outside Maverik Stadium: Merlin Olsen.

Growing up in Logan

Olsen was born in humble beginnings on his path to become the hometown hero. He was born on September 5, 1940 to Merle and Lynn Olsen. They must have just combined both their names to call their oldest child of nine. Both his parents graduated from Utah State university where they would begin their careers. His father was a professor while his mother graduated in elementary education.

Olsen wasn’t always the greatest athlete. After being cut from the basketball team his freshman year, the coach told him to give up on sports and go into performing arts which he was good at. He decided to just excel at both. He left a legacy at Logan High School which was recently nominated as an NFL Hall of Fame High School.

College: There’s no place like Home

People these days don’t do what Merlin Olsen did as far as college recruitment goes. If we step away from the fact that Stanford’s mascot is a tree, we realize that Olsen chose Utah State over a big time school. This proved to be a great decision as Olsen was an Outland Trophy winner and was a consensus All-American selection.

He led perhaps the greatest defense in school history. They gave up only 50.8 rushing yards per game which was the best in the nation at the time. His squad gave up just 139.4 total yards per game which is still a school record. You could make the case that the 10-1-1 Utah State Aggies in 1961 had the best defense in school history. Another defense that comes to mind in recent memory is the 11-2 Aggies of 2012.


Olsen is a member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame as well as USU’s All-Century football team. The fact that he has the football field, a park (and skating rink in the winter) and a statue in his name speaks volumes about his impact in the community. Logan is kind of like Cleveland is in the sports world. Since Olsen left Logan in the 60s, some misfortunes in conference realignment as well as being in a small market have made it harder for the program to succeed until recently. Perhaps future Aggie teams will work hard to reach his legacy. Players like this are one in a million. Perhaps current Pro-Bowl player Bobby Wagner can eclipse this level if he can build more accolades in his NFL career. It’s hard to compete with the hometown hero but there are more Aggies getting drafted so perhaps their success will be more attainable at the NFL level.

NFL Accolades:

Olsen was a member of the famous Fearsome Foursome defense for the Los Angeles Rams. He was a 14-time Pro Bowl selection. The only year he didn’t make it was his final year. He was also the Rookie of the Year in 1962. He was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time team. When it comes to greatness, Olsen is as good as they get. With the exception of maybe John Stockton of the Utah Jazz, Olsen is the most accomplished athlete in state history.

Featured image courtesy Herald Journal

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