Hoge to coach USA Football national team

USA Football has named former Steelers running back Merril Hoge as the head coach of the 2011 U.S. Under-15 National Team in football. Team USA will represent the United States in the first Four Nations Cup in Canton, Ohio, from July 16-24. The Four Nations Cup is a week-long celebration and competition involving football teams of players age 15 and younger spanning four countries.

Hoge, a member of USA Football's board of directors, was a running back for the Steelers from 1987-93 and presently is an NFL studio analyst for ESPN and a youth football coach for each of the past six seasons.

Raised in Pocatello, Idaho, and a resident of Fort Thomas, Ky., Hoge was drafted by the Steelers in the 10th round of the 1987 NFL Draft from Idaho State University.

The Four Nations Cup will consist of cultural exchange through football, educational seminars for athletes and parents led by NFL coaches, players and football experts, 7-on-7 exhibitions and multi-country joint practices. Each team will play two games during the week. Participating international teams will be determined this spring.

USA Football is a member of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), which is comprised of 59 member nations spanning five continents. Canton hosted the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship comprised of eight national teams aged 19 and under.

Each Four Nations Cup team roster will consist of 26 players. All 13- and 14-year-old athletes who partake in USA Football Player Academies – three-day age-specific player development experiences – are eligible to play for Team USA. USA Football Player Academy participants receive customized evaluations from former NFL and college scouts on how to advance their skills. In addition, players age 15 and younger may be nominated for Team USA at usafootball.com.

The week-long football celebration will take place during the annual NFL/USA Football Youth Summit in Canton, which unites youth football league decision makers and high school football coaches from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The summit advances the sport through seminars covering player and coach development, health and safety, and other best practices.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to teach this great game and instill its values in our players as well as those from other countries," Hoge said. "I am a coach – this is what I do. We will celebrate this game and we will do it in a city that possesses an immensely rich football heritage and history. We're all going to enjoy and savor this."

"Merril's integrity, knowledge and pride in our country make him the perfect fit to lead Team USA in Canton," USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. "Football's foundation is built on blocking and tackling – and this week will cover those fundamentals – but it will also cover the intangibles that earns it a special place in our country and many others."

About USA Football:USA Football, the sport's national governing body, leads the game's development, inspires participation, and ensures a positive experience for all youth, high school, and other amateur players.* The independent non-profit hosts more than 80 football training events annually for coaches, players and youth football league commissioners. USA Football is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association and manages U.S. national teams for international competition. Endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football distributes $1 million annually in equipment grants and offers background check subsidies for youth leagues' adult volunteers. Former NFL team executive Carl Peterson is USA Football's chairman.*

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