Word coming out of Steelers camp is that Chris Hoke is going to hang it up after 11 years with the Steelers and the retirement presser will come tomorrow (Thursday).
Word of a backup nose tackle retiring usually wouldn't make a ton of news but when you are a member of one of the best defenses in the league that runs a 3-4 and depends so heavily on the nose tackle to get the work done then this begins to be news. Hoke's job wasn't to get tackles or sack the quarterback, but it was to stop the run and eat up blockers to keep the lineman off the linebackers so they could make the tackles and headlines.
Hoke was an undrafted free agent that the Steelers signed in 2004, a few years after they drafted Casey Hampton in the first round. It wasn't easy but Hoke was able to crack the roster and he has paid huge dividends in making the Steelers a Super Bowl contender more often than not.
When you talk about defensive guys you usually talk about tackles and sacks. Over Hoke's 11 year career he only amassed 83 tackles and two sacks but it goes way beyond that. What he did do was play in at least 14 games a year for 10 years and would have been 11 years if he didn't suffer a neck injury that required surguery and really forced him to retire. He was a mainstay on the line and if you ask anyone that watches the game of football you will really hear what Hoke meant to this Steelers teams.
When Casey Hampton went down in 2004 Hoke stepped in and helped the team win a Super Bowl. Some will say that you are only as good as your weakest line, and Hoke was never that link.
What will go unnoticed is how good of a person Hoke was. There might not have been a happier guy and when you heard him talk in interviews or even just saw him on the sideline or on the practice field you knew he loved what he was doing. He wasn't a nice guy on the field, and he shouldn't have been, but that is a different story. When you hear about how he used to start fights at practice just to catch the eye of the coaches you should understand that was his on field persona. This was a great guy on the field and an even better guy in the locker room and as a person.
I guess the gist of this isn't to tell you he was a great guy and made a few plays, but to really try and illustrate how good of a player and human he was. Most people will roll their eyes if you talk about a backup nose tackler retiring but for what Chris Hoke brought to the Steelers it deserves that talk and for you to smack that person who rolls their eyes in the face.
Good luck to Hokie in his retirement and I hope he enjoys it.