DUBLIN, Ohio – Tristen Hoge first attended the U.S. Army All-American Bowl back in seventh grade when he was an East Bay Youth All-American himself.
Hoge is the nephew of former NFL veteran and current ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge.
Being inside the Alamo Dome in San Antonio watching the nation’s top high school football players bang helmets, Hoge knew he had to end his prep career in the same fashion.
After the game, Hoge was on the field getting autographs from the players he quickly began looking up to.
“They might as well been rockstars to him,” Marty Hoge, Tristen’s father said this past weekend at the Football University Top Gun – High School Camp, held in the Columbus suburbs. “He came home and said dad I’m going to wear that uniform.”
Fast forward to the present, and the Pocatello (Idaho) Highland standout has earned the right to wear that uniform.
One of the top overall performers at the FBU Top Gun Camp, the 6-foot-5, 287-pound Hoge is one of the early selections for the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The rising junior is rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 77 prospect overall in his class. Notre Dame and LSU are two of the programs to already have extended a scholarship with the Irish slightly leading the Tigers at the top of his list.
Hoge will again attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this year and can’t wait to suit up two Januarys from now.
“They say it perfectly,” Hoge began. “It’s the Super Bowl for high school kids. I agree. Since I was a kid, I looked up to these guys. Not just as a football player, but I’m glad to be going to the game and getting a chance to set an example for these younger kids and be able to tell them if you have a goal to strive towards it and do what it takes to achieve it.”
Everything Hoge wants to achieve, he writes it on the wall in the weight room at home. He got the idea of writing down his goals from his uncle Merrill Hoge, who played in the NFL for eight seasons after his career at Idaho State, and now works as an analyst for ESPN. Hoge’s father was a quarterback that also played at Idaho State.
“He’s a lot like his uncle Merrill,” Marty said. “His uncle Merrill had a great philosophy as a kid. Throw the goals up. I made fun of it. Everybody else made fun of it. At the end of the day he’s the one laughing.”
The younger Hoge is smiling as he is in the process of crossing things off his list. Becoming a U.S. Army All-American at one point was at the top. Other goals read, get straight a’s, score a 33 on the ACT, be a better person.
“All these little goals will lead up to big goals,” Hoge said. “I used to have a book I’d write them in. I was like why can’t I have something I look at every day before I go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning and before I walk out the door.”
Hoge has note cards he now nails to a corkboard. His day begins at 5:30 every morning and it’s the first thing he sees, and he takes one more glance before calling it a night at 9 p.m.
“He gets a 28 on the ACT the first time he takes it and it was just disappointing to him,” Marty said. “Anyone else that gets a 28, they’re off, they’re done. But him, it was like a shot in the mouth. He’s like dad I can’t wait to sign up for it and do it again.
“His level of commitment as a leader is huge,” the elder Hoge continued. “He wants to be a captain of everything. He wants to be front of the line. That’s one of his goals, just being in the front of the line. If you’re front of the line you always get seen first. Be in the front seat, he doesn’t want to be in the back. If it’s a big, huge classroom he wants to be in the front.”
As Hoge thinks about his future goals, he has starting in college and making it to the NFL written down on the board as well.
“He gets discouraged by very little,” Marty said. “Nobody can influence him other than positive influences. He picks great role models. He doesn’t tie himself to anything but what he thinks is right. He has a great mom, a fairly decent father. He just gets it. He’s a great kid.”
Other programs to offer Hoge besides Notre Dame and LSU includes Boise State, BYU, Penn State, Utah and Washington State. Besides those schools, he is hearing from just about every powerhouse from coast to coast. It was easy to see why at Top Gun as Hoge was dominant in 1-on-1 reps, most coming from the center position.
Next up for Hoge is a trip to Stanford this coming weekend. It will be his first time in Palo Alto. In the past he’s been to Notre Dame, LSU, Penn State, BYU and Utah. He is already planning to return to the Irish campus during the fall for the BYU game in late November.
“Notre Dame is number one,” Hoge said. “LSU would be a close second but Notre Dame is still at the top. They have a great coaching staff and everything there. I just felt at home at Notre Dame meeting the players and seeing the team relationships, you immediately pick up on that.”
Hoge does not have a timetable for a college decision, but didn’t rule out making one as early as the fall.
“I don’t know if I would commit on a visit,” he said. “It’s always not going to be just my decision. I’ll talk with my family about our priorities and what we’re looking for in a school.”