Exclusive With NFL Great Merril Hoge: How Three Words Saved His Life

Angie MeyerContributor IISeptember 14, 2010

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Three words: Find. A. Way.

Three simple words, but when composed in a sentence and typed back-to-back, can be the three most powerful words in the English language. And I'll guarantee, if you ask NFL legend and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge his thoughts on these three words, he'll tell you they changed his life.

So much so, that he named his autobiography after the inspirational message.

Hoge is one of the most recognized names in NFL history. Making an everlasting imprint in the National Football League, Hoge played eight seasons as a running back for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. Upon his retirement from the league in 1994, he made the switch to hosting, becoming one of ESPN most beloved football analysts.

However, what few realize, is that a man who has accomplished so much, has undergone some of the most incomprehensible challenges known to man. From cancer, to family tragedies, to childhood traumas, to his own personal demons, he overcomes them all in an incredibly inspiring fashion.

The message Hoge conveys in his book is to live your life with no regrets. We all have the power to turn difficult circumstances into opportunities. A feat that's not easy for most, however, Hoge calls it, "Our human God-given tool."

Hoge's story speaks to the masses, and his message is simple: Find a way. We had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of "Find a Way" and the story left us thrillingly inspired in a "Rudy'esqe" fashion that you'll have to read to completely understand.

The grandest treat of all... Glam Girls had the opportunity to chat with Merrill about the book. He tells us exclusively what he hopes the readers (you) will take away from his story.

Hoge also gave us his professional insight on the upcoming football season (glam fantasy players take note). The book is published via the Center Street/Hachette Book Group, and is also available in eBook format.

My hope is that after you read the interview below, you'll jump in your car and go purchase this immediately.

Everyone (football fan or not) can appreciate the message in Merril's story. Because, it's not what happens to you, it's what you do about it.

Exclusive Merril Hoge: Find A Way

GG: What does the finished product of this book mean to you? What message do you hope readers take away?

MH: "I want the readers to understand the enormous gifts they posses within themselves. Their spiritual and mental state, channeling the things we want to happen, and not be worried about what could happen.

This book is about the people who inspired me. It's about Chuck Knoll, Walter Payton, my kids. It really challenged me and gave me the energy to stay focused on what I could do to make things happen. So many times we channel into the odds that are going against us. But when doing so, you're devoting all your energy into that. That's why you have to say, "I don't care what the odds are, I'm going to beat them."

You take that action, and amazing things happen. We all possess those gifts. If a person closes this book and says, I can change the direction I'm going, I have the same gifts in me, I can make it happen - That's what I want them to take away."

GG: Tell me about your "dream" bulletin board? How did it inspire you to achieve?

MH: "When I was a rookie, I had to learn 150 plays. My board was the entire wall. I wrote down every play and put them on my wall. I literally made the entire wall my playbook. It worked. This speaks to how powerful the mind is. When you surrender to sleep at every night, what you're left with what's last been ingrained in you.

Everything you want to do, it becomes you. You have to see it every morning and every night... I promise you will not fail. You wont have any regrets at the end of the day. You can accept the end result."

GG: Was it therapeutic to write the book?

MH: "I always think back to that Aristotle quote. We all are what we repeatedly do. When I read the quote, it spoke of excellence. Excellence is not an act, but a habit. Our mental and spiritual make up is endless.

When I played football, I needed to maximize whatever 40 I could run. I needed to sharpen that skill, by doing so, I'd live with no regrets. Sure, I never won a Super Bowl, and never played in a Pro Bowl (my position wasn't a pro-bowl position until now) - however, when I look back, I know I did everything in my power to accomplish those things I needed to do.

I live with no regrets. Everyday I practiced as hard as I could, I trained as hard as I could, and that's why I have no regrets."

GG: You had a series of events happen during your early days in Idaho. Was there one event in particular that you still consider your defining moment?

MH: "Probably when I got my hand caught in the machine at the farm. I thought I was going to lose hand and my arm. When I was stuck in the machine and I saw the limb, I remember thinking there was a chance that I might not be the same. That's when I realized, that if I survived, and if my hand survived, I would sill be able to play football.

In that very moment the first thing I thought about was playing football. It was that moment (based on my outcome) that I would commit everything I had to the thing I wanted the most, and have no regrets."

GG: If you could choose one inspiring message during your years playing for Chuck Noll, is there one thing he told you that will always stick with you?

MH: "If there's anything I can translate... The first thing—he was always consistent.

Chuck Noll's principles were consistent, and he was always fair in that he challenged you within that structure. Sometimes his challenges seemed to be in the wrong direction, but he'd do that to put you in the right situation at the end. Noll knew that people wouldn't crumble within adversary. He was fair and honest, and some people didn't like that.

Every principle and thing he taught in the game of football, he referred to life lessons. He said "life's work" (for me, on the football field) is greatest stage to teach life lessons when adversary strikes. Are you prepared enough to handle that? When panic moments arise, will you rely on what you trust? If you trust your habits and your principles, if you've prepared right, you WILL NOT fail. If you haven't sharpened your weakest element then you'll be exposed.

His combination of habits taught me how to translate words into life itself. Life lessons on football field are unparallelled and unmatched."

GG: If you could go back and meet yourself at 12, what would you say?

MH: I'd probably reevaluate how I trained and prepared. What I know now, and what I teach my son, and the little league football team I coach is this... At twelve, I wasn't able to train properly. I exhausted myself under the pure desire to be great.

Use a pie for example. There are three pieces to the pie. The pie represents perfect health. In order to complete the pie, there are three components - Nutrition, exercise/training and rest. To balance out your energy, we often fail to rest. When you have a commitment and desire to want it more then everything else, you have to be willing to let your body rest and repair. I wish I knew then what I knew now.

I was so goal oriented, I forgot to take time to rest and rehabilitate. If I had to do it over, I would have trained in the pool more, done gymnastics—all to ensure that I properly built up the development of an athlete.

Core game is such a vital component to maximize your athletic ability. There's a lot of significance in rest."

GG: As a former Steeler—is Troy Palamalu's hair going to be a hindrance to his game?

MH: "Never. It gives him more strength. If someone is pulling it, its because he just picked them off, and that's a good thing."

GG: Can Pete Carroll turn the Seahawks around? Why so many roster changes even now?

MH: "Its going to be difficult. Pete has to adjust to this game. He struggled in the NFL his first go round. You'd think over time he's learned. Do they have the talent? Not yet. It could take another three years before they are okay talent wise. Sure there's a chance.

However, it's not just talent, he needs to manage himself differently. The trade approach he's come up with is going to be difficult to bring the right people in, and still be an  impact. Seattle's objective isn't to win the Super Bowl, yet. Their objective now is how many good players and people they can bring into the organization."

GG: Predictions for NFL this year?

MH: "Here's one of the great things. There are six teams in both the NFC and the AFC that are contenders."

GG: Should your sister-college, Boise State be considered a national championship contender? Are they doing everything right?

MH: "Absolutely they should be considered. They've earned it. They're amazing. How they rolled over in the last decade speaks volumes. There's a great tower of strength in the team, their coaching and the Boise community.

Hoge also made a note for all of the ladies who want to learn more about football, and how the game is properly broken down.

He hosts a show on ESPN Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN that will leave you walking away understanding the intricacies of the game.

Hoge goes through actual tapes that coaches review rather then highlights, so you can see why various calls were made, and mistakes that players make that cost them the game.


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