Merril Hoge

Merril Hoge
No. 33
Position: Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1965-01-26) January 26, 1965
Place of birth: Pocatello, Idaho
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
College: Idaho State
NFL Draft: 1987 / Round: 10 / Pick: 261
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

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 University 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 10th round of the 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 six carries and 13 receptions.[4]

During a road game in 1994 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hoge suffered 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.[5]

Hoge sustained another concussion several weeks later, and had to be resuscitated after he stopped breathing.[6] 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.[7] Steelers team physician, neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, had established a baseline for evaluating cognitive effects of concussions, so when Hoge continued to experience impairment after several weeks, he returned to Dr. Maroon for a new evaluation. Maroon's team found a "marked disparency", informing Hoge that further concussions would risk permanent brain damage. Upon receiving this information, Hoge retired.[8]

In his career, Hoge gained 3,139 rushing yards and 2,133 receiving yards, scoring 34 touchdowns. While playing fullback in the Steelers offense, he scored 10 touchdowns in 1990.[9]

Broadcast career

In 1996, Hoge was hired as an on-air analyst for ESPN. Hoge is a well-known short-tie aficionado.[10]



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. 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.[11]

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.[11]

Soon after treatment began, Stanley Marks, Hoge's oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, gave him a 75-80% chance of prolonged remission.[11]

On October 31, 2015, one month after he had surgery to repair an enlarged aorta, Merril Hoge returned at work at ESPN on NFL Matchup.[12]


Hoge lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky with his son Beau (born 1997) and daughter Kori (born 1993). 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. Beau is a freshman quarterback at Brigham Young University while Hoge's nephew, Tristen Hoge, is a freshman on the Notre Dame football team.[13]

His mother died when he was 19. [14]


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.[15]


  1. Cannon, Mike (March 31, 1990). "Quiet but confident, NFL player thrives on work, clean living". Church News. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  2. "All-Conference honorees" (PDF). Idaho State Bengals football. 2012. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  3. "1987 NFL Draft" NFL website, Draft history
  7. Brockway, Kevin: "Dangers of a concussion" Gainesville Sun, October 1, 2009
  8. PBS Frontline "League of Denial" extended interview
  9. "Merril Hoge" Football Database
  10. Timothy, Burke. "Merril Hoge's Little Tie is Adorable". Deadspin. Deadspin. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  11. 1 2 3 Bouchette, Ed: "Merril Hoge tackling cancer" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 21, 2003
  13. Wiltfong, Steve: "Hoge Accomplishing Goals" 24/7 Sports, July 23, 2013
  14. Kiesewetter, John: "Why Does ESPN’s Merril Hoge Live Here?" Cincinnati Enquirer, September 23, 2010
  15. Beau is a freshman quarterback at Brigham Young University."Merril Hoge" Premiere Speakers Bureau, Motivational Speaker biographies
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