Huntsman Post

Utah State University names field at Romney Stadium Merlin Olsen Field

Editor’s note: Merlin Olsen graduated from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, summa cum laude in 1962, majoring in finance. He received the Outstanding Business Student Award in 1959, 1960 and 1961 and now he is the first Huntsman Alumnus to have a major football field named after him. We thought we’d share this story from Utah State Today with you about Olsen’s newest honor.

Utah State University names field at Romney Stadium Merlin Olsen Field

Utah State University students know how to honor a winner. Students erupted into spontaneous (and emotional) chants and cheers in December 2009 as the university honored one of its greatest alumni and the most decorated football player in school history.

USU announced at a special ceremony during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Saint Mary’s that it is naming the playing field inside Romney Stadium “Merlin Olsen Field.”

An official dedication ceremony will take place during the end of the 2010 football season in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Utah State's 1960 Sun Bowl Team, that was led by Mr. Olsen.

Susan and Merlin Olsen

During Saturday’s halftime ceremonies, students and other fans greeted Olsen with a rousing round of cheers during an unscripted power outage. As the honoree and his family stood at center court with President Stan L. Albrecht and Athletics Director Scott Barnes, the “unofficial” student cheer section broke out into rousing chants and rhythmic clapping to screams of “Merlin Olsen … Merlin Olsen … Merlin Olsen” and “Aggie legend … Aggie legend … Aggie legend.”

President Albrecht told the packed house that Mr. Olsen, well known for his exploits on the playing field, has had an equally significant impact on the university off the field.

“I can assure you that there has been no one in the history of Utah State University who has carried the Aggie banner more actively and with greater honor than has Merlin Olsen,” the president said. “Merlin and Susan and the rest of your family: thank you so much.”

During the official dedication of Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium in fall 2010, a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of Mr. Olsen, which will be sculpted by nationally renowned artist Blair Buswell, will be unveiled in the southeast corner of the stadium.

"Susan and I and the entire Olsen family are pleased and excited at the announcement this week that the playing field in Romney Stadium is being renamed Merlin Olsen Field," Mr. Olsen said in earlier comments. "I share this special honor with great coaches and teammates. Remembering those days brings to mind some of the happiest and most productive days of my life."

"The Utah State University family is deeply honored to be a part of this important announcement today," said President Albrecht. "There is no one who has carried the USU banner so proudly and with such distinction over the course of a lifetime than has Merlin Olsen. He has touched and influenced millions of people, not just through his success in the athletic and entertainment fields, but through the personal generosity and humanitarian service that have been so much a part of his life, and that of his wife and partner, Susan."

"Merlin Olsen epitomizes what we hope for when we think about the end result of our mission - preparing our student-athletes for life," Mr. Barnes said. "Merlin is a distinguished alumni who has given back generously of his time and financial resources over many years. He has carried the flag for our great university with dignity and honor and we are grateful to recognize him in this special way."

Mr. Olsen was a three-year lettermen on the offensive and defensive lines for Utah State's football team from 1959-61, earning All-American honors during both his junior and senior seasons. During his senior season in 1961, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior defensive lineman.

Mr. Olsen also was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi in 1962 with a degree in finance.

During his senior season, Mr. Olsen anchored an Aggie defense that yielded an average of 50.8 rushing yards per game to lead the nation. USU also allowed 88.6 passing yards and 139.4 total yards per game in 1961, and all three of those averages still rank as the best single-season efforts in school history.

Merlin Olsen

The 1961 Aggie defense gave up an average 7.8 points a game, which is second in school history behind Mr. Olsen's 1960 team, which allowed 6.5 points per game. Additionally, the Aggie defense held four opponents to less than 100 total yards that season, including Idaho who was held to a school-record 23 total yards in USU's 69-0 win on Oct. 28.

During Mr. Olsen's junior and senior seasons, Utah State had a combined 18-3-1 record under head coach John Ralston and were Skyline Conference co-Champions each year as USU played in back-to-back bowl games against New Mexico State (Sun Bowl, 1960) and Baylor (Gotham Bowl, 1961). Utah State finished the 1961 season ranked 10th in both the Associated Press and United Press International polls, the highest-ever final ranking for a USU team.

Mr. Olsen is a member of the State of Utah's Sports Hall of Fame, the Utah State University Sports Hall of Fame and USU's All-Century Football Team. In 2000, he was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the State of Utah's Top 50 Athletes of the Century.

Following his collegiate career, Mr. Olsen was the third overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft and became a charter member of the Los Angeles Rams and the famed "Fearsome Foursome." In 15 professional seasons, he was named to an NFL-record 14 Pro Bowls and missed a total of two games during his career. Along with earning All-Pro honors nine times during his career, Mr. Olsen was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1962 and the league's Most Valuable Lineman in 1973.

Mr. Olsen, who retired from professional football in 1976, was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and in 1999 was ranked No. 25 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. He was voted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and to the All-Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2008 Mr. Olsen was named to the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team to commemorate the Sun Bowl Association's Diamond Anniversary.

About Romney Stadium

Located on the north end of the Utah State University campus, Romney Stadium is named after E.L. "Dick" Romney, USU's all-time winningest football coach and former Athletics Director. The first game inside Romney Stadium was played on Sept. 14, 1968 when the Aggies defeated New Mexico State, 28-12, and the facility was officially dedicated on Sept. 27, 1969. During the past 42 seasons, Romney Stadium has been the site for many amazing moments in Utah State Athletics, including 108 football victories.

About Blair Buswell

For over 25 years, Blair Buswell has sculpted more than 60 busts of the new inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He sculpted the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the top college running back in the country. Mr. Buswell was honored as the 1990 Sport Artist of the Year by the United States Sports Academy, the first sculptor ever to be so honored. He has also sculpted former Aggie basketball All-American Wayne Estes, along with the likes of Charlton Heston, Harold B. Lee, W.A. Criswell and San Carlos Borromeo, to name a few.