Hyde: Frank Gore’s secret to success
“I’m just myself,” said Gore, who at 35 is the NFL’s oldest running back.
Ichiro Suzuki arrived to the Marlins as baseball’s oldest player with a trailer of workout machines to stay fit beyond mortal limits. Jaromir Jagr came to the Panthers as hockey’s oldest player with a stash of secrets that involved calling a strength coach late at night and say, “Meet me at the rink.”
Frank Gore, at 35, the NFL’s oldest running back, has no machines or midnight rendezvous to fight time’s narrowing of the hall and dimming of the light.
“I’m just myself,” he says. Dolphins teammate Cameron Wake, at 36, eats plates of salmon, passes on cheeseburgers and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since his first year in college. Teammates send him shots of water at bars.
“I watch what I eat a little during the week,” Gore says. “But Monday, now Monday might be a cheat day.”
He smiles. “I’m going to have to ask Cam about all that.”
sits in the productive December of this season, in the December of his career, and listens to another prying question about the secret to his success. He has a pat line to this by now.
“I’ll tell you when it’s over,” he says.
Here’s the real secret: There is no secret. Work hard. Live right. Stay healthy. Understand your strengths. Find motivation, at times, in being doubted, like he still does in mentioning then-San Francisco GM Trent Baalke releasing him after the 2013 season.
And, finally, love the game.
Really, really love it. “I still love it,” Gore said. “I love everything about it.”
It loves him back, too. That’s the beauty of longevity in sports. Jim Harbaugh, his former San Francisco 49ers coach, said from Michigan that Gore was his hands-down, all-time favorite player. Andrew Luck said from Indianapolis Gore might just be his all-time favorite teammate.
Everyone who says they’re not surprised by Gore still running, and running, like some football (and similarly initialed) Forrest Gump undersells
what he’s done. Everyone should be surprised by this. It’s abnormal.
Two years ago, at 33, Gore became the oldest running back to rush for 1,000 yards since John Riggins played in a different NFL in 1985. At 35 this season, he vaulted LaDainian Tomlinson to become the fourth on the
all-time rushing list. Next up in 535 yards: Barry Sanders.
“Coming up, I thought Barry Sanders was the best running back ever,” Gore said. “Not knocking Emmitt [Smith]. But the plays Barry made, just knowing he ain’t really played with nobody [in Detroit]. He did a lot on
his own. That’s tough. I respect it.”
Today matters in sports, though, and that’s the most telling part of Gore’s run. He still matters. His rushing totals look pedestrian at
708 yards (ranked 20th) and 4.7 yards per carry
(19th). But the power is still in his game: He ranks sevGore enth with 2.3 yards after contact.
For anyone who has aged with Gore, who watched him grow up at the University of Miami, the addon amazement to his career is how it started. He twice tore his ACL while at the University of Miami and fear of injury to his surgically repaired knees downgraded him to a third-round draft pick by the 49ers.
Now Gore sees a slice of value to to the injuries, just as he does anything that humbled him. He also remembers seeing teammate Clinton Portis succeed in the pros a year before him.
“He put up 1,500 [yards]
the first year, I’m like, ‘Wow,’ ” Gore said. “I’m like, ‘I can’t wait until I get there.’ I’m happy what I went through, though. It made me respect the game better, made me look at the game one day at a time and know it can be taken from you.
“That’s why when I practice, I grind, go hard every play. When it was taken from me, I was sick.”
Portis retired in 2010 at age 30. He used to work out in the offseason with Gore. So did former NFL running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice James-Drew. When they retired, Gore began working out with James White, Giovani Bernard and Lamar Miller.
Now they’ve moved on elsewhere, and he has a new group of young backs.
“I like to work out with the young guys,” he said. “I do what they do.”
It says something odd that the oldest players are the best stories in South Florida. Dwyane Wade, at 36, is on his last lap. Roberto Luongo, at 40, is the most important piece for the Panthers. Wake and Gore, in the fourth quarter of great careers, keep going. “I love it,” Gore said. That’s as much his secret as anything.
“I’m happy what I went through. It made me respect the game better, made me look at the game one day at a time and know it can be taken from you.” — Frank Gore
Running back Frank Gore impressed during his first training camp with the Miami Dolphins this summer.