Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Merril Hoge was an omnipresent football figure.
Hoge played nearly a decade in the NFL, with all but one of those seasons coming alongside legendary center Dermontti Dawson and the Steelers. Then, Hoge spent many years as one of ESPN’s most prominent football voices.
Over three years after leaving ESPN, Hoge found an interesting and unique career to keep him busy.
Merril Hoge played eight NFL seasons
It isn’t a typo to write that Merril Hoge was a 10th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987.
That year’s draft had 335 total selections across 12 rounds, led by No. 1 overall pick and Miami Hurricanes quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
Hoge had eight yards on three carries as a rookie and turned seven catches into 97 yards and a touchdown. Over the next four years, Hoge quietly served as one of the NFL’s most underrated running backs.
From 1988-91, Hoge picked up 2,708 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry across 64 games and 55 starts. Hoge also hauled in 173 catches for 1,479 yards and seven touchdowns.
Those weren’t All-Pro numbers, but Hoge was a capable starting running back in his own right.
Hoge saw fewer carriers in his final two years with the Steelers, however, and he closed his career with five games for the Chicago Bears in 1994.
Hoge had a major role on ESPN’s NFL coverage
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One generation knew Merril Hoge for his days on the gridiron in black and yellow.
Other generations knew Hoge for his time at ESPN. Hoge and his short ties joined ESPN in 1996 and served as an analyst there for over 20 years.
Hoge didn’t hold back on his takes involving younger players, especially as he grew older. Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and his off-field issues became a frequent target of Hoge.
ESPN parted ways with Hoge in 2017 as part of significant layoffs at the company.
Merrill Hoge found a unique career after leaving ESPN
A few months after he left ESPN, Merril Hoge found a unique new career that he felt was perfect.
Hoge and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman joined “Your Call Football.” The league used crowdsourcing to determine what plays would be called.
In other words, the league could ask fans if Hoge should run or pass on third down. If 70% of fans voted Hoge should run, he would do exactly that and hope it worked.
Specifically, fans would receive three possible plays to vote on using their mobile device.
Hoge coached Team Power, which swept Sherman and Team Grit across four games in 2018. Team Grit, now led by former NFL safety Solomon Wilcots, won three of the four games in 2019.