Outland Trophy Winner
Olsen grew up the eldest of nine children in Logan, Utah. "Everything was planned," Olsen said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. "We'd drive a truck up into Idaho and haul back a ton of potatoes. We'd can 1,600 quarts of peaches a season, buy 100 chickens at a time."
After playing football and running hurdles for the track and field team at Logan High School, Olsen, who then stood at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, earned a scholarship at Utah State University, also in Logan. Olsen, called the "Gentle Giant" for his soft, off-field personality, helped lead the Aggies to a Sun Bowl appearance in 1960 and the Gotham Bowl a year later. In 1961, he earned All-America at defensive tackle and received the Outland Trophy as the nation's best collegiate interior lineman. He excelled academically, earning Phi Beta Kappa honors, and would go on to earn a master's degree in economics. The Rams made Olsen their first pick in the 1962 NFL draft, as did the Denver Broncos of the upstart American Football League (AFL). Olsen signed with Los Angeles.