Hyde: Frank Gore’s se­cret to suc­cess

“I’m just my­self,” said Gore, who at 35 is the NFL’s old­est run­ning back.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - Dave Hyde

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

JOHN MCCALL / SUN SENTINEL

Run­ning back Frank Gore im­pressed dur­ing his first train­ing camp with the Mi­ami Dol­phins this sum­mer.

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