Steelers' Chris Hoke retires after 11 seasons
The Steelers' Chris Hoke celebrates after sacking New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington during a division round playoff game in January 2005 at Heinz Field.
Chris Hoke makes a tackle on Tennessee's Chris Johnson earlier this season.
The Steelers' Chris Hoke, jokes with Axy Ruiz of Erie, with his step-son Jonnathon Ulrich, 7, in the background at the Heroes At Heinz Field in 2008. Ruiz, was an Army MP, a Spec. E-4, who served in Iraq in 2004. The Steelers and VA Healthcare-VISN 4 brought about 7 players and over 100 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families together for skill events on the field and a dinner.
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Chris Hoke will never forget his first start in the NFL, not after pulling on a uniform for just two games in his first three seasons: it was against undefeated New England, the defending Super Bowl champions, at Heinz Field in 2004.
"That was the first game I started and first-ever big moment for me," the veteran Steelers nose tackle said today. "My mom and dad flew in and my wife was there. To run out of that tunnel as a starter was a really big moment for me and my family."
Another arrived today when Hoke announced his retirement from football after 11 seasons with the Steelers and after his final one in 2011 ended prematurely after six games because of a neck injury that subsequently required surgery.
"That played into it,'' Hoke said. "It's just time. It's the neck, I'll be 36 in April, it's all those things. It's just time."
Hoke said those things did not make it easier to hang it up one day after doctors officially cleared him to play football again.
"I've been blessed. It's been awesome and it's hard to walk away. I put my heart and soul into this thing for 11 years."
Hoke will go down as one of the franchise's great backup players. He only started 18 regular-season games in those 11 seasons but he had a good, long run for an undrafted player from Brigham Young -- and quite a record. The team's record in his 18 starts -- all at nose tackle for an injured Casey Hampton -- was 17-1. Those included his two starts for Hampton in 2011, victories against Tennessee and Jacksonville at Heinz Field, the final games of his career.
"Look at the way I came in,'' said Hoke, who arrived the same year they drafted Hampton in the first round, 2001 and leaves with two Super Bowl rings. "Who would have thought I'd be here 11 years?"
His fervent hope would be to return to his beloved BYU as a coach, although he does not know if that can happen. If not, he'd like to stay in Pittsburgh and is open to "everything.''
"Right now I just want to enjoy my family,'' said Hoke about wife Jaimee and their five children. "I want to see what's out there. I've built a lot of relationships over the years. I'd love to get involved in radio or TV; I think I could be great at that.''
First Published January 25, 2012 12:00 am