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Hoge: 'It told me what Steelers fans are about'


*The Steelers are celebrating their 50th training camp at Saint Vincent College this summer. As a part of that celebration, we will be sharing training camp memories from players, coaches, staff and fans, leading up to the start of the 2015 Steelers Training Camp.

*Training Camp Memories: Merril HogeWhat were some of your memories from training camp?

Fifty years of Steelers football at Saint Vincent College.

"I remember getting in my dorm room the first time and there was no air conditioning. I had this little pink fan. It was the only fan I could find in the whole metropolitan area. It clipped on by the way. I clipped it on so it blew air over the top of my bed and that is how I cooled down when I was in Latrobe.

"Probably the greatest experience I ever had in Latrobe after I got my room, I came out maybe it was the second or third day of training camp and (equipment managers) Tony Parisi and Rodgers Freyvogel were standing at the bottom of the building. I come walking out and they were staring at me. They said, do you know whose room you are in. I said no. Jack Lambert's. That room has never been so quiet. They started telling me stories about Jack Lambert and I was thinking, man, I have Jack Lambert's room when I get to Latrobe, Pennsylvania as a rookie.

"And I don't think he would have approved of the pink fan by the way."

What were some of the training camp battles you remember?
"I was just talking to Mr. (Dan) Rooney about one of the greatest experiences I had at training camp, one of the most memorable. Chuck Noll was fighting trying to have what they were going to do as a mini-combine. You had to run the 40, do the shuttle, things they do in the combine. Chuck didn't want to waste practice time doing that. We had everybody in and Mr. Rooney asked him to find a way to do it. Chuck said yes, but everyone had to have their equipment on. You had to run the 40 in your equipment. When he gave us the instructions he made it very clear, have all of your pads in. If you don't have all of your pads in, I'll find you pads. I'll put your thigh pads in, your knee pads in. Have your socks down. Be taped. Have all of the equipment on that you would be playing with and you had to run the 40 and the grass was high.

"Our fastest running the 40 was Rod Woodson and he ran a 4.6 something. If he would have run a 4.6 at the combine people would have been talking about Rod Woodson isn't fast, can't play football. That is why Chuck didn't want to do it. In the combine you don't have all of that stuff on and even in the 40 there is nobody in front of you. You aren't playing football. After it was all done he said we found out who is the fastest, the strongest, and who can jump the highest. Now we have five weeks to find out who can play football and that is who I am keeping.

"I had started to worry thinking the 40 with all of this equipment I am not going to do very well; I hope they don't rate this too high. Then I was like at least I have a shot because I can play football."


The fans come out in large numbers at camp. What was it like to experience that?**
"My experience may be different than most. I didn't come from Michigan. I didn't come from Georgia. When you go down and the first time you enter a practice at Latrobe and you have more fans at practice than you ever had at a game in college, it takes you a while just to adjust to practice. Early on when I got there I never experienced anything like that. I thought that was just Latrobe, maybe it was special, but it told me what Steelers fans are about. Week two of my rookie year we go to Cleveland and I fell asleep on the bus. I woke up and thought we were back in Pittsburgh because all of these Steelers fans were there. It was an example of how they were. It's why Latrobe is a fascinating place. It's like a football sanctuary."

What do you think if the setting of camp at Saint Vincent?
"How it has evolved is pretty incredible because most teams don't have those settings any more. They are using their own facilities. The Steelers and Saint Vincent are a rare relationship now."

Did you appreciate the setting, or was it tough because you were there practicing?
"There are a lot of beautiful parts about Latrobe, but there were days when it was like 100 degrees and the humidity was like a sauna. You are walking out there taking a knee after every practice because the humidity was so heavy on you. They are wringing towels around your neck, you are drinking two glasses of water. Then there were the evenings as the camp moved on later that there was tranquility to it and beauty to it. It is even prettier now with some of the new buildings and things they added."

What was it like seeing the Benedictine Monks that were at the Saint Vincent Archabbey walk around campus?
"It shows you, you can have a good spirit and a little physical activity in the whole process. Those environments work well together as long as you stay within the rules."

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