- Rooney dutifully read the letter, then balled it up and threw it in the trash.
- All of which makes a bit of news reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on-line editor Dan Gigler in the Blog-N-Gold more interesting.
- But Gigler also asked Hoge about his time with the Steelers, specifically about his interactions with Chuck Noll and The Chief.
And as I started to walk out, here comes 'The Chief' walking with [the team's chief contract negotiator] Dan Ferens. And The Chief stops me and he says, "Hey -- you are one heck of a football player. We're lucky we got you on our team." He said, "Where you heading?" I said I'm heading home to finish school and he said, "Well, get that done and get back here." And he stopped at the drinking fountain and I started to walk out and turned the corner near the coaches' offices and Dan Ferens came after me and said, "You know something? That's the greatest compliment you could probably ever get right there. The Chief doesn't say that about everybody."In hindsight, this of course makes perfect sense. Hoge was never a superstar in the vein of Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis. He lacked the heart rendering comeback story of Rocky Bleier. He didn’t have the speed of a Willie Parker. His contemporaries Tim Worley and Barry Foster had more athleticism.
- But Merril Hoge made up for that in hard work, grit, determination, leadership, and toughness.
His back-to-back 100 yard playoff games vs. Houston and Denver in 1989 sufficed to earn him legend status, but it was the everyday dedication that made Hoge the hero he was.
- The curious thing about Rooney’s statement was when he made it.
- Unglamorous stats to be certain, but the Chief knew enough to see through glamor and glitter, and he'd seen enough to know Hoge was someone.