Olsen's First Rule of Logic: you never, but never, scream in pain when you're decked and stomped on. You get up as best you can and just say to the offender, "I'll be back." Say it forcefully. And then do it.
Olsen's Second Rule: always intimidate a quarterback. Deliver a solid blow upon him, if possible. It will serve as a reminder to him; there'll be times when he won't be able to see you, but he'll know you're there, somewhere.
Olsen's Do's and Don'ts: if you're viciously kicked in the groin—not just once, but twice in the same game—do not, repeat, do not shower and dress and drive yourself to the hospital. This is brave but unwise. You'll always find upon arriving that your groin is so swollen you can't get out of the car. However, if the hospital won't discharge you when you feel you should go, do get right up from bed and walk out and drive yourself home—in your nightie, if necessary.
Perhaps the most important rule was arrived at during the 1960s, when Olsen was a pillar of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome of Roosevelt Grier, Lamar Lundy, Deacon Jones and himself. To wit:
Olsen's Logic of the Semiconscious: keep in mind that toward the end of a brutal game, you're occasionally going to be playing in a coma. Your moves become like those of a trained animal—instinctive; your head swings shaggily like that of a wounded bear. Now then, if you can play in a coma—and find that your reactions are possibly better than when you're fully conscious—you know that all your training has paid off.
Olsen's training certainly paid off. And some of it seemed to rub off on kid brother Phil, who's eight years younger than Merlin. Phil first signed with the Patriots but briefly played side-by-side with Merlin in 1971 until an injury took him out of the lineup. And once, even Dad made the team.
"It was early in my career, in 1962, and the folks had come down from Cache Valley to see their first pro football game," Olsen says. "I felt good about them being somewhere up in the stands. The offense was in and I was sitting on the end of the bench when suddenly I felt someone tap me on the shoulder." Olsen gets up and tells the rest of it with accompanying gestures.
"I turned around and it was Dad. Somehow, Lord knows how, he had talked his way past the guards at the bottom of the stands. Then he had gotten on the field and at the track had talked his way past another set of guards—and that takes a lot of doing. Maybe it was that special Utah look about him. There was about a minute and a half left in the game; we were winning. 'Dad!' I said. 'What in the world are you doing down here on the field? Listen, you're not supposed to be down here.' And he nodded. 'It's all right, son,' he said. 'I just wanted to tell you that I walked up to the top of the stadium here and I looked over the side and I could see down into the parking lot. And I've never seen so many cars in my life, son. So I think your mother and I are going to leave a few minutes early. Get a head start on them.'
"Well, I stood up and put my arm around him and was saying something about how really great it had been that they'd come to the game, when suddenly I had a strange sensation that something was terribly wrong. I looked around—and the defensive team was gone! The ball had changed hands, and my unit was on the field. So I jumped into the air and I hit the ground running as fast as I could, struggling with my helmet, heading for midfield.
"And then I was aware that something, someone, was running along beside me. I looked around—and it was Dad. There we were, out in the middle of the field in front of cheering thousands. 'Dad! Listen,' I said, speaking for some insane reason in a hushed voice, 'you're not supposed to be out here. You're right in the middle of a football game.' " Olsen pauses and looks around. " 'Oh, really?' Dad said. 'Well, well. I thought the game was over and you were going out there to shake hands with the other team.' "