Ex-Cougar, Steeler Chris Hoke turned hard work into 11-year career
By Dick Harmon, Deseret News
Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 8:52 p.m. MDT
"I know it's something people hear all the time, but for me, it means something. As an undrafted free agent, I didn't get to play my first three years. I took two snaps in the first three seasons. One of the things that kept me going as a young guy was I never let up. Others would tell me to 'slow down, slow down' and I kept telling them if they started paying my paycheck, I'd slow down.
"I always gave 110 percent because I wanted to stay around. I always stayed after practice and I always did extra film study. My thing is, good things happen to those who work hard. If you want to stick around, then you push your tail. That was the mantra of my career. Any coach or player you talk to will tell you nobody worked harder. I wasn't the most athletic player on the team, I wasn't the most gifted guy but I'd outwork you and out-prepare you."
Hoke made it hard for the Steelers to cut him or give up on him. In fact, they probably wanted him in the mix to show the high-priced draftees what level of commitment they expected in a player who simply loved the game and played to prove it.
The No. 3 thing he learned is there is nothing like having a family support system for a professional athlete.
Hoke has seen his share of highly talented men with a lot of money and time on their hands self-destruct because after football they ended up with a vacuum at home and got in trouble or made bad choices.
"Being in the NFL is not easy. There are a lot of demands and a lot of pressure and expectations. Having a wife and children who are not into you as a football player but as a husband and father, when you come home after a bad day at the office, they love you unconditionally.
"When you have a bad day and call home, they don't want to tell you what they think about football. They want to talk about what went on around the house, what happened at school and other things."
Hoke says he doesn't understand how any NFL player can go through what they do, with everything they face on a daily and weekly basis, without a strong home base, a family that stands behind them regardless.
"That's why many turn to drugs or alcohol, to deal with the pressure of fans, the media or life in the NFL. I came home to a loving wife and kids who loved me for what I was, a father and husband. That meant the world to me and I can't describe how much of a difference that made."
Hoke currently is hunkered down watching his kids play spring sports. He will do some work as an NFL draft analysis in Pittsburgh for a radio and TV station. In time, he plans on moving back to Utah to be close to other members of his family. "I'd like to be involved in some way with BYU. I think that would be great," he said.
Hoke graduated from Foothill High School in Santa Ana, Calif., back in 1994, right before the implosion of the Internet and a myriad of technology.
These modern advances in the world haven't changed certain recipes for success and Hoke proves it.
Interesting how a simple three-point formula paid huge dividends for this undrafted athlete with two Super Bowl rings.