Frank Gore’s hunger to be great has yet to be satisfied. Despite making four Pro Bowl rosters, running for 8,839 yards and 51 touchdowns, the ninth-year pro still carries a huge chip on his shoulder. Given his injury concerns coming out of college, combined with his physical style of play, the San Francisco 49ers all-time rushing touchdown leader has defied all odds. This upcoming year will be no different.
After years of punishment, Gore’s time as a feature back should have already come to an end. He is currently just one of three starting running backs (Steven Jackson, Willis McGahee) who are at least 30 years old. Simply put, the position does not have a long shelf life.
In an interview with 49ers.com, Gore stated that, “every year in my career, it’s been ‘when’ and ‘if’ I’ll slow down. I look at it as a challenge.”
Last year, Gore started all 16 games for just the second time in his career. Although he has some tread on his tires, he still averaged 4.7 yards per carry in addition to rushing for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns. Based on those numbers, the former Miami Hurricane is not ready to hang up the cleats.
His desire to succeed should provide LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and Marcus Lattimore with an ideal figure to look up to. Gore’s talent played a major part in his own success, but it’s his character that enabled him to sustain that success over a prolonged period of time.
The circumstances surrounding Gore were less-than-ideal when he entered the league in 2005. San Francisco was coming off a 2-14 season and brought in a rookie head coach in Mike Nolan. Despite all the turmoil and disappointing seasons that followed, Gore never aired his frustrations to the public or pointed fingers. As a young player, he had to learn how to be a pro on his own. It’s safe to say that he succeeded in that regard.
Gore added that, “I didn’t have anybody to look up to. I’m not talking bad about any of the guys who were here before me. I just didn’t have a guy who had success in the league.”
Lattimore in particular won’t have to face the same obstacles Gore encountered. Prior to the NFL draft, Gore reached out to Lattimore, offering words of support. They already share a personal connection. That bond will ultimately aid in the development of the former South Carolina star.
Even with San Francisco’s newfound success and cultural change led by head coach Jim Harbaugh, Gore’s blue-collar demeanor remains the same. He doesn’t let the results affect his actions.
As an elder statesman of the team, Gore has earned the right to lead vocally and by example.
The young backfield better sit down and take notes.