American Football Database
Merril Hoge
Date of birth: (1965-01-26) January 26, 1965 (age 57)
Place of birth: Pocatello, Idaho
Career information
Position(s): Running back
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
College: Idaho State
NFL Draft: 1987 / Round: 10/ Pick 261
 As player:
Pittsburgh Steelers
Chicago Bears
Playing stats at

Merril DuAine Hoge (/ˈhɒ/; born January 26, 1965) is a former professional American football player. He played eight seasons at running back for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, retiring after the 1994 season. Since 1996 he has been a football analyst for ESPN television.

Early years

Hoge was born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho. After graduating from Highland High School in 1983, he stayed in town to play college football for the Idaho State Bengals in the Big Sky Conference.[1] Hoge was a three-time all-conference selection at running back.[2]

Pro football career

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Hoge in the tenth round of 1987 NFL Draft with the 261st pick overall.[3] After seven seasons with the Steelers, Hoge signed with the Chicago Bears in 1994, but played in only five games with only six carries and 13 receptions.[4]

During a game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, Hoge received a concussion and, five days later, the team doctor approved him to resume playing during a telephone call without examining him to determine if he had recovered; he was still suffering post-concussion symptoms.

Hoge sustained another concussion several weeks later, and had to be resuscitated after he stopped breathing. He spent 48 hours in the intensive-care unit and was forced to retire due to brain injury. Hoge had to learn to read again and experienced memory loss, confusion and headaches. He later sued the Bears team doctor and won a $1.55 million judgment.[5]

In his career, Hoge gained 3139 rushing yards and 2133 receiving yards, along with 34 touchdowns. While playing fullback in the Steeler's I-form offense, he scored 10 touchdowns in 1990.[6]

Broadcast career

In 1996, Hoge was hired as an on-air analyst for ESPN. Hoge is a well known short tie aficionado.[7]


Battle with cancer

Hoge injured his shoulder in an automobile accident in June 2002 and had an operation to repair a torn ligament. During an examination six months after surgery, Hoge told his doctor, Jim Bradley, also the Steelers' team physician, about a recurring back pain. Dr. Bradley began ordering tests to determine the cause. On February 14, 2003, Hoge was diagnosed with stage II Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He had the first of six chemotherapy treatments on February 28. He maintained a positive outlook throughout his treatment:[8]

It is destroyable, it is beatable. You have everything in you to do it. The mind is a powerful thing. There is no doubt, come May, I'll be cancer free; five years after that, I'll be cured. Fifty years or whatever time I have left after that, it will be the platform I stand for. I'll be a better man. This has been a blessing.[8]

Soon after treatment began, Dr. Stanley Marks, Hoge's oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, gave him a 75-80% chance of prolonged remission.[8]


Hoge lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, with his son Beau (born 1997) and daughter Kori (born 1993).[9] Fort Thomas is a suburb of Campbell County, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio where Cris Collinsworth also calls home. When Hoge was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his wife Toni, who had previously resided there, did not want to live in Pittsburgh. Accordingly, he deferred to her choice and Fort Thomas became their home. Toni and Merril are now divorced.

His mother died when he was 19. [10]


Hoge has served on the board of directors of the Highmark Caring Foundation since the early 1990s. He also ran the Hoge-Bruener-Ward Celebrity Golf Classic for over ten years.[9]


  1. Cannon, Mike (March 31, 1990). "Quiet but confident, NFL player thrives on work, clean living". LDS Church News. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  2. "All-Conference honorees". Idaho State Bengals football. 2012. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  3. "1987 NFL Draft" NFL website, Draft history
  5. Brockway, Kevin: "Dangers of a concussion" Gainesville Sun, October 1, 2009
  6. "Merril Hoge" Football Database
  7. Timothy, Burke. "Merril Hoge's Little Tie is Adorable". Deadspin. Deadspin. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bouchette, Ed: "Merril Hoge tackling cancer" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 21, 2003
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Merril Hoge" Premiere Speakers Bureau, Motivational Speaker biographies
  10. Kiesewetter, John: "Why Does ESPN’s Merril Hoge Live Here?" Cincinnati Enquirer, September 23, 2010

External links