The Los Angeles’ Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” in 1964: Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Deacon Jones, who started alongside each other from 1963 to 1966.
Jennifer Allen’s personal stake in the legacy of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” of the 1960s is pretty evident.
It’s become a large part of her own lineage.
“To say the Fearsome Foursome has an impact on my life is an understatement,” she honestly states in the hour-long documentary that she narrates about the lifetime bond of Rosey Grier, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy in the new NFL Films-produced piece that debuts Wednesday on the NFL Network at 5 p.m.
(For a sneak peek, go to this link on the NFL.com site. The doc repeats Wednesday at 10 p.m., Thursday at noon and Saturday at 7 and 10 p.m.)
The daughter of the late Rams coach George Allen had an up-close-and-personal experience growing up among the four men who may have been most familiar as blue-and-white clad Rams but stood together at the line of scrimmage like a pack of black-and-blue 6-foot-5-and-bigger Grizzly bears on their hind legs, pawing at opposing quarterbacks as soon as the center snap took place, and creating a place for themselves in NFL lore.
In fact, the four only played together for four years, from 1963 to ’66. Allen only coached them for one year in L.A. Grier suffered an Achilles injury in a 1967 exhibition game and never came back, replaced at defensive end by Roger Brown, as the Rams went from a second-division team to a perennial playoff contender.
Here, Allen’s touching interviews with Grier and Jones – the only two surviving members – as well as with the families of Olsen and Lundy don’t just relive their glory on the field but bring to light the way they impacted each others’ lives off it in retirement, taking care of each other at all costs. It stays true to the NFL Network’s series “A Football Life,” that has touched on other past stars and coaches.
“It’s a great marriage,” says Dick Enberg, the Rams’ broadcaster from 1966 to ’76, in the piece about the four. “You saw the magic. And to be outside and watch it is to applaud it. And even be guilty of being envious that you don’t have that special kind of relationship with a team of your own.”
Allen, who moved with husband Mark Richard from New York to Palos Verdes to be near her mother in the time after her father passed away in 1990 as he was coaching at Long Beach State, produced a book in 2000 called “Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter.”
That documented her connection to her dad’s career and how much it impacted her own direction – starting with naming her first-born son Roman, after her first crush, Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel.
Her second and third sons, however, are much more connected to this project.
Son No. 2, Deacon, is named after Jones, and Anton is the No. 3 son, sharing a birthday with Olsen, and carrying the middle name of Lamar, after Lundy.
“If we had a girl, we were going to name her Roosevelt — and call her Rose,” Allen, a feature reporter for the NFL Network from 2004-’10, admitted the other day in an email exchange.
Allen said NFL Films asked her last winter to be part of this story, a process that began with Steve Sabol, who died just last month.
“This project was the most fulfilling endeavor,” said Allen. “I grew up respecting these men as both players and as men. Deacon Jones is like a great uncle to me. It was a pleasure to be able to talk with Susan Olsen and Phil Olsen, Merlin’s brother who played alongside him at the Rams. And to meet Lamar’s son, Lamar III, brought me even closer to the heart of Lamar and his complete resilience to press on in the face of all physical adversity.
“I knew Merlin as a child and then again as adult, sitting beside him at dinner parties,” Allen said of Olsen, who died in 2010. “To meet Susan — his high school sweetheart — and his brother who bears such a deep resemblance to Merlin – as they walked me through his last visit home to Utah when he knew he was dying, was terribly moving, and poignant.”
Allen also met up to talk to Lundy’s son, Lamar Lundy III, at the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in Richmond, Ind., not far from the Lamar Lundy Memorial Bridge. Lamar Lundy died in 2007.
“I had never known him when we grew up as kids together – watching our fathers at the Coliseum – but he immediately felt like family to me,” she said. “There is a clear bond with those whose families played together in those days – before free agency and in a time when the league was still so young. And there is a deep abiding bond amongst all of us.”
The process, with producer Chris Barlow, includes a moving dialogue caught on film by between Grier and Jones. At one point, Greer admits that being so close to presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy at the time of his 1968 assassination, he was too devistated to continue playing and had to retire — something Jones said he never knew, and Grier regrets to this day, wish he would have stayed in the game.
Jones also shows remorse for how much hate and rage he feels he still has inside of him from the way her grew up, something he was able to channel onto the field. Grier, a church minister now, tries to tell Jones that he’s not a bad person.
One of the gems that emerges in this piece is an Aug. 1, 1967 interview that Sabol did with the four for NFL Films, as well as a clip when the four appeared on the 1965 dance show “Shindig!” and tried to pass themselves off as a singing group — if only Olsen could have kept up with the dance steps (see above).
If you think you already know as much as you can about the Fearsome Foursome, this will add plenty of new context.
“This story speaks to who they were as men – as philanthropists, as entertainers, as body guards to Bobby Kennedy, and as friends who carried each other through life’s hardships,” said Allen, who for the past year has been writing a dark comedy football screenplay while teaching yoga.
“Isn’t that the beauty of all great sports films? To look not only at the numbers on the field, but to look deeper into the people who bore those numbers. And to the lives they touched in their life far beyond the gridiron lines.”
Or, as Allen says herself in the film: “My three sons (ages 15, 12 and 9) have four extraordinary role models.”
== Where did the “Fearsome Foursome” name come from? Could it have first been used with the Los Angeles Chargers more than 50 years ago (linked here).