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Merril Hoge

Former NFL Running Back, Best-Selling Author, and Motivational Speaker

Find. A. Way.

Merril Hoge has proven that those three, simple words can be the most powerful words in the English

language. Merril’s Find-A-Way philosophy helped him achieve his dream of becoming an NFL

powerhouse and would later help him fight to live as he struggled to overcome cancer, open-heart

surgery, and family tragedy.

As a speaker since 2005, Merril has taken the stage to deliver his message to hundreds of associations

corporate audiences, such as Highmark Insurance, Equifax, and Verizon Wireless. He uses the tenacity of

that simple phrase to help people realize their gifts and uncover the tools they need to find their way.

Best-Selling Author

In 2018, with the national discussion on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) at its peak, Merril

released Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football. He collaborated on

the project with board-certified forensic neuropathologist, Dr. Peter Cummings, to take an unbiased

look at the facts surrounding this misunderstood pattern. Together, they conducted a provocative

examination of the science, as well as the hysteria around CTE and how it is being manipulated to serve

an agenda.

Merril’s first book, Find a Way: Three Words That Changed My Life, was released in 2010. It is a moving

memoir in which he shares the simple philosophy that guides him to this day and has enabled him to

overcome obstacles throughout his life.

 

NFL Football: The dream

Merril Hoge graduated from Idaho State University in 1987. As a four-year starter, he held 11 of the

school’s football records, including single-season and career marks for rushing attempts, rushing yards,

and all-purpose yards. Merril also scored 44 ISU touchdowns, a Big Sky Conference record, and still holds

the record for the most receptions by an Idaho State running back (182).

After graduation, Merril achieved his dream of playing in the NFL, starting a successful eight-year run

with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a Steeler (1987-1993), Merril set the team record for most receptions by

a running back (50 in 1988) and was one of only two Steelers to rush for more than 100 yards in back-toback

playoff games. After signing a three-year contract with the Chicago Bears, a series of concussions

forced him into early retirement in 1995. By the end of his career, Merril had played in 122 consecutive

games, the longest streak in the NFL at that time.

 

Broadcasting: The Second Career

Always one to find a way, the former NFL running back has transformed himself into a successful analyst

for ESPN for 21 years:

• Appears regularly on NFL Matchup, the network’s longest running show

• Host of Fantasy Football for the show’s launch

• Routinely offers his analysis on shows like NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime

• A regular guest on LIVE SportsCenter over many years

 

Merril continues to provide analysis to ESPN’s annual Super Bowl and NFL Draft coverage and is a

regular voice on ESPN Radio and ESPN.com. He also served as a game analyst and sideline reporter on

ESPN2 for its college football coverage and made his way to the telecast booth to call games for the

Arena Football League.

 

Overcoming Challenges: Creating Victories

In 2003, Merril was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which he fought – and beat – using the

same resolve he demonstrated on the football field. He 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.

His doctors told Merril in the fall of 2015 that he was suffering from an enlarged aorta and would need

to undergo open-heart surgery. That experience and the awareness he gained led to his on-going

partnership with the American Heart Association in helping deliver their “Lifestyles for a Healthy Heart”

message.

 

CTE: Common-Sense Advocacy

In the years since his career-ending head trauma, Merril has championed concussion research, resisted

the hysteria surrounding the disease, and become an informed advocate in the prevention and

treatment of brain injuries.

• 2009: Testified at a congressional hearing on football head injuries, challenging legislators to

institute a head-trauma protocol for players ages 8-18

• 2010: Appointed in 2010 to the NFL MTBI Committee, which initiates research and advises the

NFL on best practices for concussion prevention and management

• 2010: Named to the board of directors for USA Football, the sport’s national governing body on

youth and amateur levels

• 2011: Invited by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to serve on the NFL’s Return-to-Play

Subcommittee which deals with head, neck, and spine cases

• 2011: Met with senior officials at the Pentagon to discuss the military’s tough-guy culture and

instilling the benefits of leaders suffering a concussive head injury to voluntarily remove

themselves from a situation as the best course of action for the troops under their command

• 2011: Participated in the NFL-USO Tour to Afghanistan with Matt Millen and Hall of Famer

Anthony Munoz, visiting troops overseas

• 2012: Helped launch Heads-up Football with USA Football

• 2014: Became an active part of the USA Football Advisory Committee

 

Refocused Efforts: New Frontiers

To help bring the focus back to football, Merril also worked with the NFL in developing its “Way to Play”

program to celebrate athletes who play the game right. Throughout the season, the spotlight falls on

players doing things well, with a weekly “Way to Play” winner who awards the $2,500 prize to their

selected charity. Season winners receive the honor of being named to the Lott/Madden team during

Pre-Superbowl week.

Merril’s life-long love of the game also helped launch a new kind of league in 2018—Your Call Football.

YCD blends football and app technology enabling fans to call the play in real time. As head coach, Merrill

took his team Power to 4-0 in the league’s inaugural season.

 

Helping Others: The Goal

As a believer in helping your community, Merrill serves as Chairman and a member of the board of the

Highmark Caring Foundation. The group helps grieving children, adolescents and the families who lost

loved ones and is particularly meaningful to Merril, who lost his mother when he was just 21 years old.

There are currently four centers in Pennsylvania, in Erie, Harrisburg, and two in Pittsburgh.

With the Chuck Noll Hall of Fame Game for Life award, Merril was instrumental in developing a program

that recognizes the youth football community in each state. Since 2017, the program, together with

business partners Dicks, Riddell, and USA Football, has awarded recipients over $150,000.

Merril also joined forces with Hall of Famers John Madden and Ronnie Lott to help launch The NFL’s

Way to Play program, spotlighting great ambassadors of the game. Each week throughout the season,

one player is recognized for excellence in playing the game with skill and integrity and is awarded $2,500

to donate to any football program of his choice, along with a letter from the NFL commissioner.