Merril Hoge is a face you see on ESPN if you watch football shows, or hear on ESPN radio occasionally if you listen to sports talk with any regularity.
As such, and as a football fan much of my life, I had this vague feeling that I knew who Hoge was.
I knew these things. I have never met the man, however, and I really didn't know him. Today, I still have not met him but I feel like I know the man. Probably much better than I know people I would call friends.
That is because I recently received a copy of Hoge's book, "Find A Way: Three Words That Changed My Life" from Center Street Publishing.
It is a very personal, stirring story of how Hoge used those three words -- 'Find A Way' -- to overcome a series of obstacles in his life. First, to fulfill his lifelong dream of making it to the NFL. Then, to become a top-notch player in the league. Next, to find his way as a television analyst even though his brain had basically turned to mush due to the severity of his concussions. Finally, simply to survive when cancer tried to knock him down for good.
Besides, you have to respect any man willing to share the story of how he was once hit so hard (by Seth Joyner of the Eagles) that he actually crapped his pants right there on the field.
Seriously, Hoge spares few details of his life in trying to find a way to inspire people to live the best lives they can. Here is how Hoge explains his reason for writing the book, along with Brent Cole.
"I would not have written this book if I were not rooting for you to find a way to your own victories. I know you can."
Hoge talks about how he began using the words "Find A Way" to pursue his dreams even as a young boy. He talks candidly about his abusive father, with whom he still has little or no relationship. He talks about how only one college, Idaho State, saw fit to recruit him to play football. He talks about how scouts told him flatly that he was too slow to be an NFL player. He talks freely about having to relearn almost everything, including how to read, when concussions obliterated much of his cognitive ability. He talks about his daughter, Kori,' who was only nine at the time, throwing the words "Find A Way" back in his face when he revealed to his family that he had cancer. Words that helped him fight the disease.
There is plenty of football talk in this book. But, it is not a football book. It is an inspirational book about a man's fight to push his way through every obstacle put in his way, and be the best he can be.
It is well worth the $21.99. Even if you aren't crazy about Hoge's work at ESPN.
[CAPTION CONTEST: I actually received an extra copy of the book from Center Street Publishing. If you want a free copy e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your best caption for the photo at the top of the story. I will send the winner a copy of the book. I will accept entries until Wednesday at midnight.]