Lamar Lundy, who along with Los Angeles Rams teammates Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier formed the Fearsome Foursome defensive line that battered NFL offenses during the 1960s, has died. He was 71.
Lundy died Saturday at Reid Hospital in his hometown of Richmond, Ind., after a long illness, said Kevin Fouche of Community Family Funeral Home in Richmond.
Diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis in the early 1970s, Lundy also suffered from diabetes, Graves’ disease and prostate cancer and had undergone surgery to have a pacemaker installed.
“He was a remarkable human being and a great friend and teammate,” Olsen said Saturday. " ... He suffered through a great many physical ailments, but he kept his good humor in spite of all that.”
The Fearsome Foursome played as a unit for only four seasons, from 1963 through 1966, but the aggressive playing style and outsize personalities of the Rams’ front four ensured their place in National Football League history. Jones and Olsen were both elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Although the Rams posted losing records in the early ‘60s, the Fearsome Foursome served as the foundation of Coach George Allen’s rebuilding efforts late in the decade.
“What made that defensive line so formidable was that we believed we could control the tempo of the game,” Olsen said. “We believed we could really impact what was happening by forcing turnovers, which were so important to our offense. We focused all our energy on the quarterback. We wanted them to lay awake at night thinking of us.”
Lundy spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Rams. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound end was considered the least spectacular of the Fearsome Foursome, but he was its anchor and provided a steady presence on the line.
“He was very big for a defensive end, very tall,” Olsen said. “He used those long, long arms to keep the offensive linemen away from him. He was an extremely effective pass rusher.”
Lundy’s prowess is not easily quantified, because he played in an era before the quarterback sack was an official statistic. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns in his career and was named to the 1959 Pro Bowl team.
Drafted out of Purdue in 1957 as a defensive lineman, Lundy played tight end and slot back on offense his first three seasons, catching 35 passes for 584 yards and six touchdowns.
He moved to the defensive line in 1960. Jones was drafted in 1961 and played briefly on the offensive line before moving to defense. Olsen was an immediate starter as a rookie in 1962, and Grier joined them in 1963 when the Rams acquired him in a trade with the New York Giants.
Lundy was troubled by knee injuries his last two seasons in the league. He was traded to the San Diego Chargers after the 1969 season but did not play for them.
The Chargers hired him as an assistant coach in 1971, but health problems also cut short that endeavor.
Like Olsen, Grier and Jones, Lundy tried acting but had far less success.
His highlight was playing a snarling giant on an episode of the science fiction TV series “Lost in Space.”
He eventually moved back to Indiana to be closer to his family.
Born in 1935, Lundy was the first black person to win a football scholarship to Purdue. He also played basketball and was named most valuable player in both sports his senior year. He was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks of the National Basketball Assn. but chose football after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
Married and divorced five times, Lundy is survived by two sons, Lamar III of Richmond, Ind., and Ronald of Atlanta; three daughters, Vicki Wilbon of Atlanta, Tara Lundy of Long View, Texas, and Annie Carter of Bellflower; three brothers, Gerald of Oakland, Kenneth of Richmond, Calif., and Michael of Marionville, Ill.; 19 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be held Saturday in Richmond, Ind. Details can be found at www.CommunityFamilyFH.com.