Gore is a definite Hall of Famer.
UPDATE (12/9/18)- With 116 total yards today, Frank Gore passed LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth on the all time Yards from Scrimmage list. He now has 18,530 total yards. In addition, Gore passed Curtis Martin earlier this season on the list of all time rushing leaders and now resides in fourth place with 14,734 yards.
PREVIOUS UPDATE (2/28/18)- At the end of the 2017 season, Frank Gore sits in 5th place in the list of all time rushers (14,026), 75 yards behind Curtis Martin, and in 7th place in the list of all time yards from scrimmage (17,698), 492 yards behind Barry Sanders.
I have wanted to write a story on the long and successful, yet vastly underappreciated and slept on career of Colts’ running back Frank Gore for a while. But after reading an absolutely ridiculous and poorly researched story about how he’s not Pro Football Hall of Fame worthy, I knew it was time.
Gore was a solid college football player for the Miami Hurricanes. Between 2001 and 2004, he crafted a three-year career consisting of 1,975 yards, 17 TDs and a per rush average of 5.7 yards. In his freshman year he rushed for 562 yards and five TDs, with an eye popping 9.1 yards per carry average. In the spring of 2002 he beat out another Miami great, Willis McGahee, for the starting spot, but tore his ACL in his left knee in spring practice before his sophomore year, causing him to miss the entire 2002 season. He also suffered another injury, this time to his right knee, the following season, hampering what started out as an amazing college career.
Despite the injury bug, Gore had the talent to succeed at the next level, something fellow Miami native Antrel Rolle recognized as they grew up playing in the neighborhood and against each other at “The U.”
“I will say it to the day I die,” said Rolle in 2013. “Going against him, I still feel he was the best running back to come through the University of Miami before his knee injuries.”
That’s a extremely bold statement, considering the Hurricanes’ storied history of running backs features names such as Clinton Portis, the aforementioned McGahee, Alonzo Highsmith, Edgerrin James and Otis Anderson. But injuries have a way of clouding perceptions and careers, and Gore was no exception as his injuries caused his draft stock to falter, pushing him down to the third round where the San Francisco 49ers selected him with the 65th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. This was a draft that included three running backs taken in the first five selections, and five taken before Gore was selected in the third round.
Pick 2- Ronnie Brown (Auburn), Dolphins
Pick 4- Cedric Brown (Texas), Bears
Pick 5- Cadillac Williams (Auburn), Bucaneers
Pick 44- J.J. Arrington (Cal), Cardinals
Pick 54- Eric Shelton (Louisville), Panthers
Gore was dismayed by his selection position, but he recognized that without struggle there is no progress, so he took the opportunity offered to him by the 49ers and proved to everyone who passed over him in the first 64 picks just how much they would regret their decision.
“It didn’t go my way,” said Gore of his college career in an interview with the NY Times. “I look at it as God wanted me to go a different route. Before I got injured, football was very easy. I didn’t have to work out. I guess he wanted me to work hard and appreciate the game that he blessed me with the talent to do. That’s one thing I focus on now.”
And focus he did as twelve years later, Gore is the only running back still playing in the NFL from the twenty four backs selected in the 2005 draft (Darren Sproles, who was taken by the Chargers with the 130th pick, is with the Eagles but on injured reserve this season).
Gore’s career with the Niners was impressive yet is seldom discussed, mostly because the team only had five winning seasons during his ten-year stay in the Bay Area. His best year was his second year with the team in 2006 where, after being named a starter, he rushed for 1,695 yards and a per carry average of 5.4 yards, ranking third in the league in both categories and leading to his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Over his ten years with the 49ers, Gore was named to the Pro Bowl five times and played in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, where the Niners lost to the Ravens only after the team blew a title-clinching opportunity when they were unable to score a touchdown from the Ravens’ seven yard line with under two minutes to go and trailing 34-29.
Gore balled out in that game, rushing for 110 yards and 1 TD on 19 carries, leading to an amazing 5.79 yards per carry average. As is a recurring theme in his career, many also forget that Gore also ran for a 33-yard gain to the Ravens’ seven yard line before the two-minute warning to set up the potential Super Bowl winning series. But the team, similar to the doubters he’s faced throughout his career, forgot about him during their final four plays.
In his decade in the Bay, Gore ran for 11,073 yards and 64 TDs while also posting 2,883 yards receiving with 11 TDs. The team’s record during his tenure was 81-78 and they made three playoff appearances. But what is also overlooked is that Gore is the team’s all-time leading rusher, 2,384 yards ahead of Joe Perry, a Hall of Famer who last played with the team in 1963.
In 2015, Gore decided to leave 49ers after they parted ways with Coach Jim Harbaugh, who he pushed the team to retain. With his coach gone, Gore was rumored to be going to Philly, but instead chose to sign a three-year, $12 million deal with the Colts. Over these last three years, Gore has rushed for 2,563 yards with 13 TDs and also added 713 yards receiving and 5 TDs. While his tenure with the Colts has not duplicated the Pro Bowl performances he accumulated with San Francisco, the fact remains that Gore is still running between the tackles and churning out stats, helping him quietly ascend the NFL all-time rushing list.
Before the start of today’s games, Gore had a career consisting of 191 games, 13,636 yards rushing with 77 TDs and 3,596 yards receiving with 16 TDs. So where does that place him in NFL history? The answer is seventh and moving quickly. Check it out:
#7- Frank Gore (13,636 yards)
#6- Jerome Bettis (13,662 yards)
#5- LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684 yards)
#4- Curtis Martin (14,101 yards)
After today’s loss to the Jaguars, Gore, with 61 yards rushing, passed both Bettis and Tomlinson and now sits in fifth place with 13,697 yards rushing, only 404 yards behind Martin. If he continues his current 2017 average of 52 rushing yards per game, he will end the season only 196 yards behind Martin. Think about that. If he plays one more season and maintains his current rushing average, Gore would pass Martin in the fourth game of the 2018 season.
If that’s not impressive enough for some, let’s look at some of the names on this list, many of whom he has passed.
Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders are the top three rushers in NFL history, respectively, and their numbers are not going to be surpassed anytime in the next decade or so. Numbers 4 – 7 we already know. Dickerson, Dorsett, Jim Brown and Marshall Faulk round out the top 11. You know what they all have in common? They’re all in the Hall of Fame.
The next five include Adrian Peterson, Edgerrin James, Marcus Allen, Franco Harris and Thurman Thomas. Of those players, the latter three are enshrined in Canton, AP is still playing and Edgerrin should be receiving his bust soon. Further down the line are other Hall of Famers such as #19 John Riggins, #21 O.J. Simpson, #31 Joe Perry and #37 Earl Campbell.
Of the top 21 greatest rushers of all-time, only Gore and AP are still playing, and with AP seeming to be breaking down, Gore truly stands alone.
If you’re still not convinced, check out the NFL Career Yards from Scrimmage list. The top eleven players consist of ten Hall of Famers and Gore, who currently resides in 9th place with 17,293 yards, placing him ahead of Thurman Thomas and Tony Dorsett. Players in his sight are, in order, Curtis Martin (17,430 yards), Marcus Allen (17,654 yards), Barry Sanders (18,190 yards) and LT (18,456 yards). With his current average, Gore will pass Martin this season and if he plays next season and maintains his per game rushing and receiving averages, he will pass both Allen and Sanders and sit in 6th place, trailing only LT, Faulk, Payton, Smith and Jerry Rice.
Gore might not be a household name, or a player whose name is uttered in debates centered around top running backs, but he’s a player who every NFL household should recognize, include and respect. He continues to perform, maintains a strong work ethic and has remained relatively consistent over his twelve-year career. He has produced for both the 49ers and the Colts and has avoided the days of his injured past. Since being named as the starting running back for the 49ers in 2005, Gore only missed 11 games between 2005 – 2011 and has started every game over the last six seasons for both the 49ers and the Colts.
He sits comfortably amongst Hall of Famers in multiple categories and he’s still going. He should have been a Super Bowl Champion, which probably would have erased all of the doubt surrounding his Hall of Fame credentials, yet his name was forgotten despite his success. But championships, or lack thereof, should not be a factor for denial of greatness or enshrinement; I’m sure Erick Dickerson, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin and Barry Sanders would all agree.
If you venture beyond the justifying statistics, you’ll see a man that has brought it ever since he stepped on to a high school field. When faced with devastating obstacles, Gore responded with faith and understanding, and has been rewarded with a career that only a select few have been fortunate enough to craft and experience.
For all of those who doubted him and continue to do so, the 68th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft continues to play, remains durable and could be the league’s fourth all-time leading rusher and sixth all-time scrimmage yards leader by next season.
So Gore isn’t just good or very good as that story suggested. No, he’s beyond that, so don’t sell him short.
He’s Canton good and yellow jacket worthy.