How the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome Changed the Way We View Pro Athletes

What’s better than being a famous athlete? Being a famous athlete in Los Angeles. The proximity of Hollywood opens the lid to a treasure chest of opportunity for celebrities in Southern California.

That opportunity was not wasted on Rosy Grier and his multi-talented teammates who comprised arguably the NFL’s greatest defensive line in the 1960s for the Los Angeles Rams.

For four seasons, from 1963-1966, the Rams featured a nearly impenetrable wall on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage: Grier, Merlon Olsen, Lamar Lundy, and Deacon Jones.

BURNING QUESTION: Is Sports Betting Legal in California?

How good were they?

Famed Chicago linebacker Dick Butkus, a future Hall of Famer, called the Rams line “the most dominant line in football history.”

But the Fearsome Foursome proved legendary not only as football players, but as celebrities, activists, and men.

Members of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome

Roosevelt ‘Rosey’ Grier, 1963-66

Few athletes, indeed few people in any walk of life, have had a more diverse life than that of Roosevelt Grier. A polymath, Grier was, according to The Sporting News, a “300-pound, guitar-playing folk singer.”

Rising to 6-foot-5 and tipping the scales at nearly 290 pounds, Grier was an imposing physical specimen. But he was nimble and athletic. Rosey could dunk a basketball and was capable enough to perform an Arabesque ballet move.

Rosey Grier was a huge part of the Rams' legendary Fearsome Foursome
Rosey Grier, Rams (AP Photo)

On Sundays he liked to toss offensive lineman to the side and wrap his strong arms around the ball carrier. But at other times, Rosey was composing music, singing, or engaging in one of his favorite hobbies: macramé knitting.

“I don’t want to be respected for my size,” Rosey said. “I desire a full life with my efforts spent at making myself a man of well-rounded experiences.”

READ MORE: How the Chargers’ Air Coryell Offense Changed the NFL Forever

When the Rams acquired Grier from the Giants, his presence on the line led to a four-win improvement in his first year. With his talented teammates, he soon made the Rams a tough opponent in the NFL.

He also created fame for himself and his teammates. Grier recruited the other members of the Fearsome Foursome to perform on a folk music album, and they briefly headlined their own show in Las Vegas.

His playing career was halted after he suffered a devastating injury to his Achilles tendon in 1967. But Grier continued a phenomenal career as an actor, songwriter, producer, and political activist.

Grier was only feet away from Bobby Kennedy when the US Senator and presidential candidate was shot and killed in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1968. Later, he released a tribute to Kennedy, “People Make the World,” which landed on the Top 100 Billboard charts. He appeared in nearly 100 episodes of TV over four decades, including Kojak, The Love Boat, and as himself in The Simpsons.

Merlin Olsen, 1962-76

The youngest member of the Rams Foursome, Olsen was 23 in 1963 when the quartet first started harassing quarterbacks and running backs together. He went on to play 15 seasons in then NFL as a defensive tackle, all of them for the Rams. He made the Pro Bowl and amazing 14 times, and helped LA to the NFL playoffs six times.

Olsen was articulate and cerebral. He was a three-time academic All-American in college, and graduated summa cum laude in 1962 with a degree in finance. That acumen proved useful in a long career as a professional athlete and later as an actor.

Merlin Olsen, and the rest of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome, showed pro athletes don't need to be defined by their sport
Merlin Olsen in “Father Murphy” (AP Photo/Wally Fong)

Olsen appeared in more than 230 episodes of television, on the Top 10 show Little House On The Prairie, as well as his own program, Father Murphy, between 1976 and 1983. His face and gentle voice became well-known in American homes.

ONTO 2024: Here’s How CA Tribes and Sportsbooks Could Compromise on 2024 Sports Betting Prop

Olsen is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. How great was he? In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Olsen 25th on its list of the 100 Greatest Football Players of all-time.

Lamar Lundy, 1957-69

When you’re uniquely large, handsome, and living in Southern California, you might find yourself on camera playing the role of something big. That was the fate of Lamar Lundy, a gentle giant who was cast as a menacing cyclops in the pilot for Lost In Space, a popular sci-fi show that aired in the early 1960s.

Lundy was never lost in space on the football field. Though he was 6-foot-7, he had quick feet and moved like a defensive back. It just so happened that he had arms so long it seemed like he could unsnap the chin strap of the running back from across the line of scrimmage.

Lundy was such an agile athlete that the Rams also used him as a receiver early in his career, and he caught six TD passes. But it was his fierce pass rush from the defensive end position that made him a pro bowl player.

IF CA EVER HAS SPORTS BETTING … Potential California Sportsbook Bonuses

In an era when quarterback sacks were not accurately tallied, Lundy might have had as many as 15 in a single season. Officially he had more than 10 sacks twice. His long legs and expansive reach made it nearly impossible for one offensive lineman to block him.

Not nearly as well-known off the field as other members of the Foursome, The Sporting News called Lundy, “aggressively anonymous.”

Deacon Jones, 1961-71

The second member of the Rams famed front four to earn election to the Hall of Fame, Jones was the other bookend defensive end, piling up more than 170 sacks in his career. Five times he led the NFL in sacks, twice with Grier, Lundy, and Olsen on the line.

Jones is credited with coining the term “sacks,” which makes him historically important not only for his play, but for his smack talk. He also played with a controlled rage that frightened opposing teams.

“I normally slept well the night before games,” longtime 49ers QB John Brodie said. “But twice a year, I had sleepless Saturday nights because of one man, Deacon Jones. He terrified me.”

Jones developed many techniques that were later adopted across the NFL. He was the first lineman to use a head slap (later outlawed as being too violent), and he was credited as the first pass rusher who could make tackles sideline-to-sideline, due to his incredible speed. Though he normally played at 270 pounds, Jones was consistently one of the fastest players on the Rams defense.

“Thank God,” Jones said, “I had the ability to play a violent game like football. It gave me an outlet for the anger in my heart.”

Rams head coach George Allen called Jones, the “greatest defensive end of modern football.”

Like the other members of the Fearsome Foursome, Jones tried his hand at acting. He appeared in many of the most popular TV shows of the 1960s and 1970s, including The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, and Wonder Woman.

The legacy of the Rams famed front four was more than just great defensive football. It was the creation of a popular term that still exists today and serves to help defensive linemen stand out. It was to spotlight the diversity of football players previously known only for their aggression and size. And it was to show that pro athletes could establish a career outside of their sport.

WANT TO BET ON SPORTS? Fliff Is Offering a 100% Bonus Match Up to $100 in Fliff Cash

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for California Casinos with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.