Former NFL running back Merril Hoge worked as an analyst at ESPN for 21 years, helping to launch ESPN 2, NFL Live and Fantasy Football, along with being a part of the longest running NFL show on television, NFL Matchup.
An eight-year National Football League veteran, Hoge spent 1987–1993 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was the team’s starting running back for six of those seasons. He set the team record for most receptions by a running back, totaling 50 in 1988, and was one of only two Steelers to rush for more than 100 yards in back-to-back playoff games. He concluded his career in 1995 with the Chicago Bears after suffering a series of concussions. At the time of his retirement, Hoge had played in 122 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NFL at that time.
A 1987 graduate of Idaho State University with a degree in education and minor in health and fitness, Hoge set 11 school records, including both single-season and career marks for rushing attempts, rushing yards, and all-purpose yards. He also scored 44 touchdowns, a Big Sky Conference record.
Outside of his NFL and television work, Hoge is Chairman of the board of the Highmark Caring Foundation, which has created four centers in Pennsylvania (downtown and suburban Pittsburgh, Erie and Harrisburg) for grieving children, adolescents and their families who have lost loved ones. The foundation is particularly meaningful to Hoge, who lost his mother when he was just 21 years old.
Hoge is also on the board of the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research, and launched the Chuck Noll Hall of Fame “Game for Life” Award to honor youth football programs, helping to recognize communities that play and teach the game of football and life in the right way.
Hoge, who battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003, received the Chairman’s Advocacy Award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2004 and 2008 for his outstanding participation in driving awareness for LLS and its mission. Hoge also had open heart surgery in October, 2015, and since then has worked with the American Heart Association.
Active in concussion research and in the prevention and treatment of brain injuries, Hoge testified at a congressional hearing on head injuries in football in the fall of 2009, and he was appointed in January 2010 to the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which initiates research and advises the NFL on best practices for concussion prevention and management. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also asked Hoge in 2011 to serve on the NFL’s Return-to-Play Subcommittee which deals with head, neck and spine cases.
In September 2010, Hoge released his first book, Find a Way: Three Words That Changed My Life, about the philosophy that has guided him and enabled him to overcome obstacles throughout his life.