Merril Hoge knows you think his tie is too big

Thu, Sep 16
Merril HogeESPN

Merril Hoge thinks big. He thought big growing up in Pocatello, Idaho, when he made a goal to play in the NFL. He thought big when he was faced with overcoming cancer.

And now, as an NFL analyst, he still thinks big -- about his tie knots.

Hoge knows you think they're insanely large. "I get more comments on what I wear than what I say," he said.

This was a calculated strategy by the former Steelers running back when he began working in television.

"There are three ways to impact people on television: What you say, how you act and what you wear," he said. "I chose a long time ago to use all three. You've got to use everything at your disposal.

"A suit drowns things. If I spent $80 on the tie, why would I drown it?"

The knot often leaves Hoge with a shorter tie. He knows you notice that, too, especially when he's in a situation where he's standing and not wearing a jacket.

"I have people killing me because my tie was too short," he said, saying he gets comments from people on Twitter. "Even if someone comments on it, at the end of the day, that's all good stuff. I just tell them, 'I appreciate you watching. Your feedback means a lot.'"

For a guy who thinks big, fashion criticism is a small concern. He documents overcoming the challenges he's faced -- and overcome -- in his life in a new book, "Find A Way: Three Words That Changed My Life," available at his website.

The book takes Hoge from Idaho, where his mother died when he was young, to reaching the NFL, which was the culmination of a far-flung goal he set as a boy in his room, when put an 8"x10" card on a cork board in his room that said, "Find a way."

After reaching the NFL, he was forced into early retirement due to a traumatic brain injury, before eventually waging a successful battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Hoge said he still uses the "Find A Way" mantra in his personal life and as a parenting tool along with wife Toni to help his teenage children, Kori and Beau.

"It took me seven years to eventually pull it off," Hoge said about the book, which is more motivational than about his playing career. "It has football in it, but it's not a football book. To get somebody to understand that was so difficult. Publishers, writers, they just didn't get it."

Hoge said his main motivation for writing it was to help people use the same tools he's used to face their personal issues.

"I want people to shut that book and think, 'I can do this.'"