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REMEMBERING THE FEARSOME FOURSOME : When You Think of Defensive Lines, Only Four Names Come to Mind-Jones, Olsen, Grier and Lundy

September 16, 1985|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

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.

They had size and range and were always on the attack. And they did it with flair and elan that were inimitable.

There have been other groups that have called themselves the Fearsome Foursome, such as the San Diego Chargers' line in the early '60s, but to the average football fan there is only one Fearsome Foursome, reading from left to right: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy.

They have secured their place in professional football history and, perhaps, are as well known today as they were in their heyday.

Three of the four, Jones, Olsen and Grier, have kept their names before the public as actors, entertainers, television personalities and spokesmen for commercial products. In addition, Grier is also an ordained minister.

The fourth, Lundy, quietly fought for his life in the early '70s while afflicted with myasthenia gravis, a serious muscle weakness for which there is apparently no cure.

In a recent Times poll selecting the all-time Rams' team, Jones, Olsen and Grier were named to the defensive line. Lundy was overlooked.

As a group, though, they made a mighty impression. For starters, there was a Bunyanesque quality about these warriors. Lundy stood 6 feet 7 inches and the others topped out at 6-5. They were said to average 265 pounds, but Jones claims there wasn't a day that Olsen weighed less than 290.

Arguably, this was the definitive front four, but did they really make up the best defensive line of all time?

"Name any other line that has two Hall of Famers on it." Jones said.

Jones and Olsen are both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No other defensive-line unit has more than a single inductee.

Curiously, the Fearsome Foursome played together for only four seasons, 1963-66, and were only on one winning team. Yet their identity remains strong.

Lundy began his career with the Rams as a tight end from Purdue in 1957. He was moved to defense in 1960.

Jones was an obscure 14th-round draft choice from South Carolina State. He played briefly as an offensive lineman in his rookie season of 1961 before finding his natural niche on defense.

Olsen, from Utah State, was a first-round NFL draft choice in 1962 and became a starter in his rookie season.

Grier had come from Penn State in 1955 to become a fixture on the talented New York Giants' line with Andy Robustelli, Jim Katcavage and Dick Modzelewski before being traded to the Rams in 1963.

Lundy played for the Rams until 1969, then finished his career in 1970 with the Chargers. He suffered from a thyroid ailment in 1964 and had diabetes by 1967.

Grier suffered an Achilles tendon injury during the 1967 exhibition season, which ended his career.

Jones played alongside Olsen for 10 years, then finished his career with the Chargers and Washington Redskins in the early '70s.

Olsen played 15 seasons for the Rams, making the Pro Bowl each year. He was the last active member of the Fearsome Foursome to retire.

DEACON JONES

Deacon Jones was snapping pictures of Deacon Jones when interviewed recently at his Studio City apartment. His camera closed in on a replica of his bust that resides in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

That bust will also be prominent in the Single Wing Shoppes that Deacon and his partners will open in Florida this month. Single Wing will sell Buffalo-style chicken wings and other barbecue selections.

"When you walk in the front door, you'll see a life-size manikin of me, same height and weight," Jones said. "The only thing different is that a light is projected down and it puts my exact image on the manikin. Looks just like The Deacon."

Jones said that once his Florida operation is smooth he plans to expand, selling franchises to other NFL players and former players.

"This could be Tony Dorsett's Single Wing Shoppe, or Bob Lilly's, with their manikins up front. But I'll control the operation," he said.

Jones, 46, has always been a promoter. Flamboyant, audacious, outspoken and shrewd, he promoted himself as a player, although his actions on the field spoke louder than any message he delivered at press conferences.

"I've always tried to tell Deacon--and he hasn't listened yet--that it is better that other people tell him how great he is," said Grier, who can chide Jones because they're close friends.

Known as the Secretary of Defense in his All-Pro years, Jones brought fan recognition, once reserved for backs and ends, to linemen with his slashing, ferocious and often innovative assaults on quarterbacks.

Jones is credited with bringing the head slap to pro football. He would cuff and daze an offensive tackle, then streak by him to his quarry, the quarterback.

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