10 extraordinary homegrown athletes and coaches

Published: Tuesday, April 12 2011 11:32 a.m. MDT

#1 - Merlin Olsen, Logan Next List » 10 of 10 « Prev
Associated Press
Olsen was an All-America defensive tackle at Utah State playing from 1958-1962 and was the Outland Trophy winner. He was the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1962, and he played for them for 15 years. He was the 1962 Rookie of the Year, the 1974 Player of the Year, and a member of the Pro Bowl team every year but his last. He was voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. After his football career he developed an acting career and was a regular on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Saint George, UT

I guessed this one right.

DD JayMario
American Fork, UT

Ah, finally a Deseret News sports list that includes Merlin Olsen. It's about time.

South Jordan, UT

Are you kidding me? You don't have Gene Fullmer on this list? 2 time Middle weight world champion? Held a winning record of 2-1-1 over probably the best pound for pound boxer in history Sugar Ray Robinson! You have Shawn Bradley and some girl who ran track and played basketball in high school over him? Goodbye to any credibility you did have DNews.

Woods Cross, UT

Bradley ahead of McMahon? If this is NOT a top ten, then list them alphabetically.

Spanish Fork, UT

Edwards and Motta weren't athletes...
Seems like there were some great track athletes and Olympians from Fillmore. Don't recall their names.

How about the Law Boys from Provo.

Highland, UT

Some credible comments. Gene Fullmer has got to be 2 or 3 and Shawn Bradley maybe #10. The guy was 7'6" but that was about it. There has been so many other athletes that should be on this list that aren't.

Obviously not much research done on this one. Merlin Olsen- definitely #1.

Karchaj, A.V.

Another short-sighted list from the D News. Logan Tom All American Volleyballer at Stanford and multi-year Olympian? Naaaaaaaaaah. You have two coaches on there and a bunch of local folks that never amounted to much at the highest level. Bradley, Nielsen, etc. etc. etc.

Ogden, UT

Have to agree about Gene Fullmer replacing Shawn Bradley. Bradley does not deserve a place in the top 10 and Fullmer should be #2.

How about Rulon Gardner? He was from Afton, WY, but now resides in Logan.

Rocket Science
Brigham City, UT

This list definitley needs to be revised. How can anyone leave athletes off the list like as has been mentioned Gene Fulmer? Where is Alma Richards (Olympic Gold Medal High Jump)? Where is Cael Sanderson (Olympic Gold Medal Wrestling, undefeated & 4 time NCAA chanpion, Coach of this years NCAA wrestling championship Penn State wrestling team)?

Maybe the article should have been limited to the 10 best football and basketball athletes as there was a disporportionate representation compared to some of the other great athletes who have come out of the state.

Houston, TX

Arnie Ferrin? I guess you have to be old enough to remember (or realize there was life before 1960), but Arnie Ferrin was an all-American and played in the NBA. His teams won the NIT and NCAA. He also was AD at Utah and on the NCAA tournament selection committee. He certainly was as successful as Dick Nemelka.

I agree with Gunner... Gene Fullmer should be there. He's probably another victim of the 1960 rule.

By the way, Dick Motta coached at Weber State, and put them on the map. You might have mentioned that.

Salt Lake City, UT

Shawn Bradley?

Parry is a Farce
Layton, UT

Lori Parrish-Salvo? Not to diminish her but where did she play basketball, track and volleyball and at what school is she sixth best all time? And if it was Davis as I suspect, why was she there for 5 years "76-81"?

I think Bruce Hardy was FROM West Jordan and played at Bingham High when it was in Copperton.

I can give you a little leeway on LaVell Edwards because at least he played at the college level (although I agree with TheOfficialCall that he was a coach and not an athlete), but Dick Motta was not an athlete - HE WAS A COACH. You even say it in the article that he was cut from his high school team.

Shawn Bradley was not an athlete - he was tall. Fred Roberts, Tom Chambers, Danny Vranes, and Jeff Judkins were better local athletes who played in the NBA.

I agree that this list is a farce when you leave Gene Fullmer off. And what about Logan Thom or Cale Sanderson or Haloti Ngata? Or Alma Richards (who would have probably won a 2nd and 3rd gold medal in 1916 but the games were cancelled)?


What is up with these top ten lists recently?

If you want to get a top 10 list, and actually have credibility, you need to send out a memo asking for input. Then, people can give you suggestions. To have one kid in his early 20's coming up with a list and then publishing it is a joke.

Las Vegas, NV

What about Cael Sanderson?????

Orem, UT

this maybe one of the worst list I have ever seen....were is Gene Fullmer, Bruce Hurst, Fred Roberts, and a host of Olympians and current football and basball players, instead you have 2 Coaches, and some woman track star.

Salt Lake city, UT

yeah, i don't even know who half of these people are.

South Jordan, UT

Yeah what do we know anyway? I mean Fullmer is only in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I mean how does that compare with Shawn Bradley having his jersey retired at Emory High School?

Ephraim, UT

If you don't have Kael Sanderson on here you just missed on the greatest athlete ever. Undefeated in college! A feat never before attained.

Provo, UT

Good Heck. Stop with these stupid lists. And where is CAEL SANDERSON???!!! You might have heard of him (evidently not!). Like he won an Olympic Gold Medal. He went 159-0 in college, best college wrestler ever! He just won the NCAA tournament as a coach for Penn State.

I'm glad at least Merlin is one the list. Him or Sanderson should be #1 without question!

Provo, UT

Additional great athletes:

Yes on Arnie Ferrin
Yes on Jeff Judkins, Danny Vranes, Fred Roberts Tom Chambers (not sure he actually is homegrown in Utah)
Yes on Gene Fullmer, him not being on this list is a joke
Haloti Ngata (young but about as good as it gets in Utah)
Aaron Holker (most never heard of him but won an NCAA wrestling title with Sanderson)
Logan Tom (volleyball star)
Cody Sanderson (two-time NCAA runner-up and brother of Cael)
Vance Law--solid Major League baseball player
Craig Drury--Three sport stud for Provo HS and legendary HS coach
Stew Morrill--another great coach and athlete
Orrin Olsen, Phil Olsen--brothers of Merlin who played in the NFL--and BTW though I love Merlin and glad he's on this list, he might have been raised in Idaho actually
Rulon Jones--Broncos and Utah State
Chris Cooley--Washington Redskins and also AA HS wrestler

P.S. I would consider Shawn Bradley an athlete, not sure he's Top 10 material but he was a dominant athlete! As athletes Dick Motta and LaVell Edwards weren't particularly special, great coaches for sure but this is a list of athletes

Bountiful, UT

Regrettably, this top ten list only reinforces Utah's athletic standing as 48th or maybe 49th when compared to all other states in the country. We barely nudge Alaska and Montana out...

Provo, Utah

L. Jay Sylvester? Clarence Robison? Henry Jordan? Wayne Estes? Stewart Bradley? Alex Jensen? Matt Mendenhall? Golden Richards? Jim Barry?

People have made nice additions to the list, but Utah has probably produced many more fine athletes than we've seen here so far.

I may be mistaken, but Jack Dempsey is from around here somewhere.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

Seriously? Bradley? He's considered one of the biggest NBA busts of all time.

History Minor
Jacksonville, Florida

This is an unfortunate list. There are too many omissions to mention and too many who don't deserve inclusion. The most egregious athlete left out? Montana State's John "Cat" Thompson, who was born and raised in St. George, was the college player of the year in 1930 and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted in 1962). He was a four-time All-American, from 1927 to 1930, and, frankly, is the best home-grown player the state has ever produced. I'd go Thompson, Olsen and Fullmer as 1-2-3.

sid 6.7
Holladay, UT

Bradley beats out Golden Richards, Steve Marshall, Roger Dupaix? Not to mention Haloti Ngata and Gene Fulmer. What about Ben Coates, Harvey Unga and Harvey Langi? What about the Doman boys, Bryce, Cliff and more importantly Brandon? Don't tell me the Dyson boys don't fall on the list somewhere.

Bradley no more deserves to be on this list than I do. He wasnt that great in college, remember the beating he took at the hands of SHAQ in the first round of the NCAA playoffs? His NBA career was a disappointment at best.

Sorry D-News this list is a joke!

Provo, UT

Jack Dempsey is Colorado. Here's a couple of other boxers. David "Little Red" Lopez and Manuel Soto (great golden gloves boxer and state champion wrestler at West HS).

There are a lot of great athletes from Utah, not sure why that guy wanted to bash Utah. I mean Utah has produced perhaps the greatest amateur wrestler ever in Cael Sanderson, great track athletes, solid NFL players and perhaps two of the best linemen in NFL history (with Olsen and Ngata), great volleyball talent in Tom and Williams, and some solid NBA products, best not to claim Chambers. Not sure just how long McMahon lived in Utah either, I heard he played here just his senior year. I'm glad somebody mentioned L. Jay Sylvester, great track and field athlete and multi-Olympian.

As far as NFL players go, nobody will touch Olsen in greatness except for maybe Ngata but he has more years to go. I wouldn't say Golden Richards was any better than Dyson, both solid pros. Cooley has also been named All-Pro.

If Olsen actually prepped in Utah (confirmation there) I don't mind him #1 but you could go Sanderson and/or Fullmer.

Valley Center, KS

Sorry fella but everyone here is correct. Bad list.

South Jordan, UT

Speaking of Little Red Lopez, he also was just inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this last year. Fullmer fought and beat the biggest names of the time, and like I said won the world title twice! I mean really, you could add his two brothers who were world class boxers as well before you you put Bradley on this list!

South Jordan, UT

Vern Law (the original "Law") was from Meridian, Idaho. His sons might have been born in Pittsburg where he played pro baseball. I'm not sure of that.

FYI, the name of the article is greatest athletes AND coaches, thus coaches are named.

Ernesto de Bajo
Albuquerque, NM

It looks like it is easier to read and comment on these lists than to construct them.

orem, ut

A number of greats left off this list : Danny "little Red Lopez"- featherweight world champ for over 4 years: 48 fights/ 42 wins-39 by KO.
Ted Ligety: Olympic Gold-3 or 4 world championships. Alma Richards-Utahs first gold metalist 1912-a Parowan native. And like it or not Golden Richards, the best high school athlete this state has ever seen.

Rocket Science
Brigham City, UT

Sounds like we all agree, Jed Layton needs a chance for redemption. We have given you a lot of ideas. What do you say about trying it again?

Wayne Estes was mentioned and perhaps was the best basketball player to play for any team in the State of Utah but I believe he was from Montana. Jack Dempsey was from Manassa, Colorado.

Cedar Hills, UT

What a horrible, terrible list. I don't know if I can maintain my sanity after the buildup of anger as I moved through the list without seeing anticipated athletes. I can no longer hold DN in any esteem, and will forthwith never read any articles from any of their reporters, now that they have been fully discredited and exposed as charlatans because of this travesty of a sports list. I shall dedicate myself to the downfall of DN because Cael Sanderson and Gene Fullmer have been so heinously ommitted. I hope there is an avenue for redress, because not only have I endured tremendous pain and suffering, many great athletes' reputations have also been besmirched. Their legacies can never be restored because of the influence and power of the Deseret News as the ultimate arbiter of comparative athletic accomplishment.

And to have coaches in a list that is billed as having athletes AND COACHES, well I just need a high bridge...

Ann Arbor, MI

Probably the lames list of all 50 states.

Merlin Olsen and no one else.

Paragonah, UT

One guy that does`nt get the respect he deserves is Les Hulet. One of the most successful jockeys you will find. Les`s records will stand for a very long time, and is a legend in New York. Les Hulet is a Parowan boy. Retired now..Look it up.

Wow... to say the least
Cedar city, utah

I cannot believe that Cael Sanderson was not the #1 or at least the #2 on this list. He is arguably one of the two best wrestlers ever (Dan Gable the other obviously), and he cant even make a top ten list in his own state? How is it then that the rest of the nation recognizes his accomplishments (not a short list) as one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time. What a shame D news. Must be because wrestling is somehow inferior to basketball and football I guess

Cedar Hills, UT

C'mon hedgie - let's hear a list from Michigan that even compares.

Idaho Falls, ID

Merlin grew up in Logan. I delivered newspapers to his parents house. LHJ.

Forget the rest. Merlin definitely the best!

Provo, UT

Like said above, it's too bad that someone like Cael Sanderson was left off the list in his own home state where many outside of Utah know of his accomplishments and consider him either the best or maybe second best amateur wrestler in US History. Like LaVell Edwards he's won a national championship as a coach and I'm sure many more to come. He might go down like Gable as one of the best coaches in history irrespective of sport.

Thanks for the clarification on Merlin, glad he's totally home grown. I know his brothers have Utah County ties as well.

Speaking of wrestlers, Jeff Holtry of West was a great one. He also played college football at Michigan and BYU though knee injuries cut his career short. But he was an incredible all-around athlete, all state in four sports in high school and a first team AA in wrestling in high school.

As far as the athletes and coaches headline, the "and coaches" was added later. I think they should do just another list for that...wait don't do it, it'll probably end up as bad as this list was...

Provo, UT

Whoops, Lest we forget Alfred Pupunu, South High Grad and All American tight end at Weber State, caught 96 passes from Jamie Martin his senior year, still among the top five in College football records. Nine years in the NFL, caught a touchdown pass for San Diego in the 1995 AFC championship game against Pittsburg to send the Chargers to the Super Bowl where he scored a two point conversion. Eight years with the Chargers. Played also for the Giants and the Lions. Coached at the University of Utah, Southern Utah University and now coaching at the University of Idaho. Another of many great NFL stars from Utah.


Draper, UT

If you are bringing in high school stars.Megan Ohai from Alta High School was gatoraide player of the year, and an NCAA Champion in soccer while at USC her sister Kaliea was a 4x State Champion, 4x first team all state, leading scorer in the state in the 9th grade!,3x State MVP,Gatrorade player of the year,3x High School all American,Parade All American and National High School Player of the Year.

Denver, CO

Cael Sanderson is not even on this list?? Only undefeated college wrestler EVER (159-0), 4x national champion @ Iowa State, an Olympic GOLD MEDALIST, and a National Championship Coach this year at Penn State? Come on now, let's get our stuff together.....

Cottonwood Heights, UT

I don't think anyone has a serious complaint with the man on top (Merlin Olsen) but other than that the list is really, really, poor.

It also seem to have a lot of pro-BYU bias, (Shawn Bradley, really?)

Mountain Bird
West Jordan, UT

I still think Danny Vranes was the best basketball player Utah has ever produced. What about Ed Eyestone? I guess great runners are easily overlooked, if they're even considered.

Bountiful, UT

Cael Sanderson - according to Sports Illustrated (April 1, 2002), his wrestling career is the 2nd most impressive college feat ever. #1? Jesse Owens four-world-record setting day. Cael was ahead of Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Oscar Robertson, and Tracy Caulkins. pretty impressive company he keeps.

Silent Majority
Farmington, UT

Stunned that Gene Fullmer is not on there...just stunned. I can only guess this was a silly oversight.

In My Humble Opinion
South Jordan, UT

Eagle, others and author: Vern Law won the Cy Young award. More than a "solid" Major Leaguer.

Tommy B
Heber City, ut

No Bruce Summerhays???

Plano, TX

Sanderson and Fullmer, total misses in your list DN. These guys are legend in their sports, Sanderson was AMAZING - probably the greatest wrestler ever in college.

Bradley - nice man, but not so much of an athlete.

Vranes would have been a good local, as was Fred Roberts (Fred outdid him in the pros in longevity at least)... who can forget Tom Chambers stepping into the NBA all-star game and winning it's MVP (87?) - he owned that game.

Gifford - same - great man, so-so athlete - right guy in a new system at the time...

LaVell - maybe the most respected name from UT sports nationally at the collegiate level.

McMahon played 2 years at Roy as I recall, having moved there from S.J, CA between soph and jr years of HS - definitely a great athlete - and forgotten for the most part for his outstanding punting one year before picking up for injured Wilson...

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments