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Remembering legends: Aggie greats have left mark

staff writer

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 23:02

Merlin Olsen, football, 1959-61

Olsen is the first name to grace the list because he is the best athlete to ever come out of Utah — according to Sports Illustrated — let alone just USU.

Merlin was locally bred right in Logan and graduated from Logan High School.

Olsen dominated his competition while at USU as a defensive tackle. During his senior year, the Aggies were No. 1 in the nation at stopping the run at 50.8 yards per game, and the defense only gave up 6.5 points per game during his junior year. During his last two seasons as an Aggie, the football team went 18-3-1 with two conference championships and finished No. 10 in the AP poll, which is the highest in USU football history. He was named an All-American in 1960 and 1961 and won the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman in the nation in 1961.

Olsen was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams, where he dominated and became part of the famous Fearsome Foursome. Following his exceptional 1974 NFL season, Olsen won the NFL Player of the Year award. In his NFL career, Olsen was named to a ridiculous 14 Pro Bowls in his 15 years and was a six-time first-team All-Pro selection. He was elected to NFL Hall of Fame in 1982 in his first year of eligibility, and he was ranked No. 25 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest football players.

Wayne Estes, men’s basketball, 1963-65

Estes easily makes this list because he was the greatest player ever to don an Aggie basketball uniform. The 6-foot-6 Estes was an extremely talented shooter, scorer and rebounder for USU.

He was held to single digits in points once in his 73 career games. The USU basketball record books are littered with his name. In just three years of play, he is the No. 3 leading scorer in school history with 2,001 points and the No. 4 rebounder with 893 rebounds. In addition, Estes holds the school record for career points per game with 26.7, free throws made in career with 469, consecutive 10-point games with 64, points per game in a season at 33.7, points in a game with 52 and rebounds in a game with 28.

In his final year at USU in 1965, Estes and future legendary NBA player Rick Barry battled each other for the single-season scoring title with Estes finishing second.

Tragically, after the game where he eclipsed the 2,000 point mark, Estes and his friends stopped at the scene of a car accident on campus. Estes brushed against a downed power line and was fatally electrocuted.

Estes was posthumously honored. He was named first-team All-American in 1965 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1967. Estes is a member of the USU Hall of Fame and was named Utah State All-Century MVP for USU basketball in 2005.

Stew Morrill, men’s basketball coach, 1998-present

Morrill makes this list even though he is still coaching because is unequivocally the best coach of USU’s best sport. Morrill currently sits at 599 wins during his 16-year career at USU, which ranks No. 29 all-time in Division I history.

Before coming to USU, he coached at the University of Montana for five years and Colorado State for six years.

Morrill has an incredible 73 percent winning percentage at USU with 381 wins and only 141 losses to go along with nine career NCAA Tournament appearances. His teams have been extremely consistent, and he has guided USU to 14-straight 21-win seasons and 13-straight seasons of postseason play, which ended last year. Both are school records.

Even with the basketball team’s rich history, Morrill has propelled the program to new heights; 12 of the top-13 seasons in USU history have come with him at the helm.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that since Morrill took over, the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum has been an absolute nightmare for opposing teams, with Morrill’s team winning a gaudy 91 percent of the time — 224 wins to 22 losses — entering this season.

Ralph Maughan, football player/coach, basketball player/coach, track athlete/coach, 1942-46, 1951-88

If anybody bled Aggie Blue, it was Ralph Maughan. For five decades, this Aggie great was the face of USU athletics. Unlike the others on this list, Maughan was not known for just one sport, but for his all-around greatness as both a player and as a coach in multiple sports.

Growing up in Cache Valley, Maughan was a three-sport star at South Cache High School. While attending USU, he lettered all four years in football and track and three years in basketball. After his sophomore year however, he enlisted in the Reserve Corps and received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in France and Belgium during World War II.

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