Frank Gore Outruns Adversity, Inks History
When you think of running back Frank Gore, you don't think of contract holdouts or controversy. You don't think of wild press conferences or off-the-field antics. You don’t think about endless highlights of an elusive running back who wowed you throughout his career. You don't think much of anything, because this quiet kid from Miami just outran all the odds and showed up every day to do his job. And now, he's secured another record like he's secured the football for 14 seasons.
Gore grew up in Coconut Grove just west of Miami. It’s a region notorious for two things; poverty and football. One saved him from the other.
His mother had a drug addiction. Gore recalled seeing her using cocaine for the first time when he was a sophomore in high school. At one point, Gore and nine other family members shared a two-bedroom house in Coconut Grove. His mother passed away in 2007 from subsequent kidney failure.
Gore also had a learning disability; a severe case of dyslexia. He struggled a lot with reading and writing. He was forced to take aided classes that would only allow him a special education diploma — a degree that would prevent him from going to college. His high school football coach at Coral Gables High School helped the young running back in the classroom, and he put Gore on track for a traditional degree.
After rushing for nearly 3,000 yards in his senior season (and setting a County record for most yards in a game with 419), Gore received a scholarship to play at the University of Miami.
In 2001, he stepped into a locker room that would produce 17 NFL draft picks that season, and he still earned playing time. It was the golden era of Miami football. He sat behind other running backs on the depth chart like Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Najeh Davenport; all NFL stars. And that wasn’t the difficult part for Gore.
In his freshman year, he ran for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. Before his sophomore season began, Gore tore his ACL. He didn’t play in 2002, but returned in 2003 to the tune of 468 yards and four touchdowns through his first five games. Then his other knee went.
After two blown knees, it would be a miracle if he could still perform, let alone get an NFL team to select him. Gore returned in 2004 and appeared in all 12 games for the Hurricanes. He rushed for 945 yards and eight touchdowns before getting drafted in the 3rd round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.
For a decade, Gore was the backbone of an up-and-down 49ers team. They only reached the playoffs three times. Yet the whole time, there was Frank Gore. He never complained or demanded a trade. He just strung together one amazing career, yard by yard, that was often overlooked.
After playing three seasons in Indianapolis (2014-2017) and now returning to his hometown Miami Dolphins, Gore has one final season to play. At 35 years old, he’s defying the engine life for running backs in the NFL, and somehow still being productive (averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season). In Sunday’s game against the Jets, he ran for 25 yards and passed Curtis Martin for 4th on the all-time rushing list with 14,112 yards. That’s eight miles worth of carrying the football head first into large angry men.
“It means a lot,” Gore said on Sunday. “I’ve been doubted my whole life, especially coming out of college with the injuries I had… I just want to win and keep going.”
He’s never won an MVP like LaDainian Tomlimson, Adrian Peterson, Marshall Faulk or Terrell Davis, but he has more yards than all of them. Only three names top Gore on the all-time rushing yards list. Those names include Barry Sanders (3rd, 15,269 yards), Walter Payton (2nd, 16,726 yards) and Emmitt Smith (1st, 18,355 yards). Some good company.
A kid grew up outside Miami with no chance of a future. He’ll finish a 14-year career with his hometown team as one of the greatest running backs of all time. A true underdog story.