The Fearsome Foursome Origins

Deacon Jones
Zennie Abraham / flickr

The San Diego Chargers defensive line known as the “Fearsome Foursome” has been an NFL icon for decades. The famous defensive line consisted of Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy. In a news article published by the LA Times in 1985, Mal Florence says, “If the Fearsome Foursome had lived in another time, they probably would have been part of a marauding army, sacking cities instead of quarterbacks. There was something majestic about those four distinct personalities who came together 22 years ago with the Los Angeles Rams to popularize and set the standard for defensive linemen.”

There have been several sets of defensive linemen that have called themselves a Fearsome Four but these four are the genuine, real deal, Fearsome Foursome.

It starts with Deacon Jones, born in Florida and was subjected to a very startling amount of racist violence. Jones stated several times that football saved him by giving him a violent outlet instead of penning up his anger towards people committing racist actions. Jones went on to play college football at South Carolina State University for one season before he played for Mississippi Vocational College in 1960. Jones had his scholarship revoked by South Carolina State University after faculty was informed that he participated in a Civil Rights Movement protest in the state. In 1961 Jones was drafted into the NFL in the 14th round. Jones immediately began the season with the Los Angeles Rams. He was paired up with Merlin Olsen on the defensive end and thus began the makings of the Fearsome Foursome. Jones earned All-Pro Honors five years in a row from 1965 to 1969.

Merlin Olsen
Source wikipedia

Merlin Olsen was born in Logan, Utah in 1940. He attended and played college football at Utah State University as the defensive tackle and graduated in 1962 receiving his bachelor’s degree in Business and Science. Later on, in that year Olsen received offers from the Los Angeles Rams who were in the National Football League and also from the Denver Broncos who resided in the American Football League. Olsen chose the more secure location of Los Angeles in the NFL and started off on a salary of $50,000 while the average professional football player was making around $12,000. Olsen played with the Rams from 1962 on to 1976 and missed a total of 2 games during his entire 15 seasons with Los Angeles. Olsen played a vital role in the Fearsome Foursome and took football incredibly seriously. After Olsen’s football career ended he made a name for himself in the television industry by guest starring in Little House on the Prairie for 51 episodes. Olsen passed away from cancer in 2010 but had filed a lawsuit against several major film companies that he claimed had exposed him to the asbestos that was found in his system.

Rosey Grier / wikipedia

Born in the southern state of Georgia, Rosey Grier was one of 12 children. During high school, Grier played a bit in high school at Abraham Clark High School where he later graduated in 1951. Grier was a very well-praised defensive player during his time with Penn State University. He was drafted into the NFL in the 31st overall pick. He was acquired by the New York Giants and played for them until the 1963 season when he began playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Grier is currently the last surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome after Deacon Jones passed away in 2013.

Lamar Lundy
Unknown / wikipedia

The last of the four is Lamar Lundy. Lundy was born in Richmond, Virginia and attended Richmond High School and led the basketball team to many championships and awards and also the school’s football team. After many offers after high school, Lundy chose to attend Purdue University and was the first black student to be awarded a football scholarship. Lundy was awarded the MVP for both basketball and football during his senior year. Lundy was drafted for both the NFL and the NBA but Lundy decided to go with a career in football. Lundy became one of the Fearsome Foursome and played until his retirement in 1969. Towards the end of his life, he battled diabetes, heart disease, Graves disease, myasthenia gravis, and cancer. He passed away in 2007, the first of the Fearsome Foursome.