He joins legendary backs Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders on the Mount Rushmore of all-time leading rushers. It truly is an amazing accomplishment and it’s unfortunate that Gore doesn’t seem to be getting the recognition league-wide that he deserves for this massive career achievement.
He may not have the dynasty of Smith, the smooth sweetness of Payton, or the jock-shaking jukes of Sanders, but Frank Gore rightfully belongs in the conversation of best (and most under-appreciated) running backs to play the game. Let’s take a look at the career of Frank the Tank and his path to 15,000.
Gore was a part of the most insanely talented college football rosters I’ve ever seen: the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. As a highly touted freshman, Gore was a backup on this national championship squad. He shared the backfield with Clinton Portis and another future Bill, Willis McGahee. This team featured a ridiculous 17 first round draft picks, and a total of 38 draft picks on the roster. In addition to Gore and McGahee, other backups on this team included Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow II, Vince Wilfork, and Antrel Rolle. Wow!
Entering his sophomore season, Gore was set to start over McGahee but tore his ACL prior to the season. He returned a year later and was off to a good start before tearing his ACL again. Two ACL tears to the same knee in two seasons.
Gore would return for his final season in Miami, rushing for 945 yards and 8 TDs.
NFL After Thought
Gore wasn’t expected to be star in the league when he was taken in the third round by the 49ers. The running backs taken before him? Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Cedric Benson, JJ Arrington, and Eric Shelton.
His rookie season was promising if unspectacular. Gore churned out 608 yards but just three TDs. His first 100 yard game in Week 17 of his rookie year, running for 108 yards against the Houston Texans.
A Star is Born
Gore’s 2nd season saw him become one of the NFL’s top running backs. He ran for an NFC leading 1,695 yards and eight TDs. His season also included his first 200 yard game in a win over the Seahawks. For good measure, he also led the 49ers in receptions, tallying 61 receptions for an additional 485 yards. Gore was named to the first of his five Pro Bowls as the starting running back for the NFC. Most importantly, it was during this remarkable season that Gore earned the nickname “The Inconvenient Truth.”
In 2012, Gore would earn his fourth Pro Bowl nod and play in the first and only Super Bowl of his career. He acquitted himself well, going for 110 yards and a score on 19 carries in a championship game loss to the Ravens.
In the 2014 season opener, Gore became the 29th member of the 10,000 yard club. With another 1,000 yard season in the books, Gore would actually cross the 11,000 yard barrier in this same season. Despite his consistent, high level production, Gore and the Niners would part ways following the season. Gore would eventually join the Indianapolis Colts after a brief flirtation with the Eagles.
In his second season as a Colt and at the ripe old age of 33, Gore would join Sanders, Smith, Payton and Curtis Martin as the only players in NFL History to rush for 1,000 yards in 9 different seasons.
The rest is history as he’d play one season in Miami before joining the Bills and reaching the 15,000 plateau this past week.
An All-Time Great
Frank Gore isn’t flashy but make no mistake, he’s one of the top backs to ever play the game. Among the top ten rushers of all time, only Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders have rushed for more yards per carry than Gore’s 4.4 average. Barring injury, he’ll pass Sanders soon into third place on the all time list.
There is only one player in NFL history to record 1,200 yards from scrimmage in 12 different seasons: Frank Gore. Only one other player has even done it 11 times and you may have heard of him. His name is Jerry Rice.
From oft-injured after thought to rock solid workhorse, it’s time to give Gore his due. He’s not just some guy that accumulated misleading stats over a long career. He had several seasons in his prime where he was a legitimately great NFL running back and now, into his 30s, he remains productive and efficient. He’s 36 but looks 26 when he’s toting the rock.
He’s the ageless wonder, Frank the Tank, The Inconvenient Truth. Or you can just call him a first ballot Hall of Famer.