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Merril Hoge is a former professional football player who played eight seasons at running back for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, retiring after the 1994 season. He is currently a football analyst for ESPN.
Upon graduating from high school, Hoge stayed in his native Idaho and became a running back for Idaho State. The 61 running back was a four-year starter.
After college, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Hoge in the tenth round of 1987 NFL Draft with the 261st overall pick.
Hoge played seven seasons with the Steelers through 1994, a career that included a ten-touchdown season in 1990. He finished his career with the Chicago Bears but only played in five games. In his career, Hoge gained 3,139 rushing yards, 2,133 receiving yards and massed 34 touchdowns.
His playing time was cut short after getting a concussion in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. A mere five days later, the Bears team doctor approved Hoge to continue playing during a telephone call without determining if he had recovered from his concussion; 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 from football.
In June of 2002, Hoge injured his shoulder in an automobile accident and had an operation to repair a torn ligament. In a post-surgery exam, Hoge told his doctor, Dr. Jim Bradley, about a recurring back pain. After ordering tests, Dr. Bradley found that Hoge had stage II Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He maintained a positive outlook throughout his treatment, stating that, 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."
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. On July 2, 2003, after completing the chemotherapy, Hoge was declared cancer-free.
Currently, Hoge lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, with his two children. Hoge has served on the board of directors of the Highmark Caring Foundation since the early 1990s. He also headed up the Hoge-Bruener-Ward Celebrity Golf Classic for over a decade.