As running back Frank Gore prepares to face one of the teams he played for during his Hall of Fame career, he remains thankful each passing week for how this season has unfolded.
He’s still playing the game he loves, now with the hometown Miami Dolphins, but this year is different. This year, he’s home.
In addition to playing for the Dolphins, Gore is embracing the day-to-day family life that was tough to manage at times when he was playing across the country in San Francisco and Indianapolis.
“I love it. That’s a blessing, getting a chance to be around my family, period,” Gore said Tuesday as Miami prepares to play the Indianapolis Colts. “I go home and my little one runs up to me saying ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ That feels good.”
Another moment that has made Gore smile: Being there in person to watching his oldest son, Frank Jr., play out his junior football season at Miami Killian High. Before this season, Frank Jr. was 4 years old the last time dad was out on the field with him during a season.
“I was nervous the first time I saw him play,” Gore said. “It was good, though. I just want him to keep having fun.”
Gore is certainly still having fun.
At age 35, he’s making his way out to the gridiron every Sunday and continuing to show that age is merely a number. The proof:
▪ He is the only running back in NFL history to rush for at least 500 years in 14 consecutive seasons.
▪ He is fourth all time in career rushing yards (14,554) and sixth in career scrimmage yards (18,456). Gore has a game ball at his locker recognizing each time he moved up those lists this year.
▪ He became just the fifth running back in NFL history to record a 100-yard rushing game after turning 35, doing so when he put up 101 yards against the Chicago Bears.
▪ He has started 118 consecutive games dating to the 2011 season.
He still runs hard through the middle of the field, similar to how he did when he joined the league 14 years ago as a third-round pick out of the University of Miami. He still garners the respect he earned when he became a second-team All-Pro in 2006, his second year in the league.
“The moments really come in practice, they come in training camp,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “The guy works really hard. He’s got part of ‘The U’ magic from back in the day. You see all those guys that [have] that competitive grit, toughness, the mind-set that he has. He’s a really good competitor. He has a competitive spirit. When he gets out there, he goes hard. He practices hard. He just has an old-school football mentality.”
That old-school mentality has worked for 14 years, including his three years with the Colts.
Gore joined the team in 2015 just after Indianapolis lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. With a quick glance at the offense — a rising Andrew Luck at quarterback, Gore in the backfield, Andre Johnson leading the receiving corps — Gore was optimistic a Super Bowl was possible.
Then Luck’s injury woes began. He missed eight games in 2015 and all of the 2017 season.
“It was rough,” said Gore, who ran for 2,953 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught another six touchdowns during three years with the Colts. ”… We [were] having different guys in and out. It just didn’t go the way I planned it; but I had fun. The organization was great. [They have] great people there.”
Gore had the opportunity to return this season, but learned after a meeting with general manager Chris Ballard that it would be best to go separate ways.
“They were straight up with me,” Gore said. “[Ballard is] a great dude. He was surprised. He told me he was surprised the way I was playing. [It] goes back to my age. I told him as long as I love the game and (am) still having fun and I know I can play and train in the offseason, I’m going to be fine.”
That led Gore to the Dolphins, where he has started all 10 games and has rushed for 528 yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry — his best since 2012.
How much longer can it last? For now, Gore is just hoping it gets him through one Sunday at a time. The future will take care of itself from there.
“I’ll evaluate myself at the end, my body, and see if I still want to go out in the offseason and train to get ready for another year,” Gore said. “That’s when I’ll make my decision.”
In the meantime, Gore has at least six more games to play this season. The Dolphins, even with a .500 record, are still in the mix for a playoff spot. A win Sunday over the Colts would set the tone for the final stretch.
“They’re 5-5. We’re 5-5. We’re both playing for the same thing,” Gore said. “Win the next one and Indy is on the board. I want to try to get a win so we can keep our hopes alive.”