DAVIE, Fla. — Frank Gore walks slowly toward his locker, his head down, a horde of reporters and cameramen waiting for him.
This is Oct. 18, hours after a Miami Dolphins practice, and Gore has a crowd waiting for him because of what he did against Chicago just four days prior, when he became just the fifth player since 1970 to rush for over 100 yards in a game at age 35. That he did it against the Bears’ strong defense, which ranks fourth in rush yards allowed, only adds to his legend.
As he heads to his stall and dresses, you wouldn’t necessarily imagine that this is the same man who, on Sundays, looks as nimble and powerful as some backs 10 years younger. He does so slowly and deliberately, and as he fields questions from reporters for 10 minutes, he does so halfway sitting, further conserving energy.
When asked later if he’s doing any of this on purpose, Gore shakes his head and laughs.
“Nah — that’s just me, man,” Gore says. “I’m just chill, man.”
While Gore’s chill personality may be a non-conscious way he conserves energy, players don’t last 14 years in the NFL like he has — at a position with as short a shelf life as running back, no less — without having a few conscious tricks for long-term survival up their sleeves. And after the media scrum was over, he shared a few of them with Yahoo Sports.
1. Never forget slights
Gore hasn’t become the NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher — ahead of 20-plus Hall of Famers, including LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown — by resting on his laurels.
Whenever Gore trains for football, he pushes himself by thinking about everything he has been through. As a star high school player at Coral Gables High, Gore suffered from dyslexia and struggled to read and write as many doubted whether he’d make it in college.
“I just think about the way I’ve been raised, always hearing what I can’t do … coming up as a kid saying, ‘Oh, you aren’t going to college, you can’t do this or that,’” Gore said. “That [expletive] makes me go harder.”
Gore got the tutoring, passed the SAT and accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Miami.
2. Embrace competition
Gore originally committed to the University of Mississippi to play football, but opted to go with the hometown Hurricanes so he could be closer to his sick mother.
“Nowadays, kids need promises to play,” Gore said. “And I’m not gonna lie, I almost went to Mississippi. But that’s the best thing I did, when I changed my mind and went to Miami.”
Miami’s running back room was loaded at the time — Gore, Clinton Portis, Najeh Davenport, Willis McGahee and Jarrett Payton all went on to play in the NFL — but Gore overcame a beastly depth chart and two ACL injuries to rehab his way all the back and win the starting job for good in 2004, when he rushed for 945 yards and eight touchdowns. The next year, the San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the third round.
In retrospect, Gore — who was part of one of the greatest college football dynasties of all time — says Miami is where he learned how to compete.
“That [place] made me stay hungry, made me understand that every day, you gotta come [hard],” Gore said. “Practices were hard [at Miami]; games were easy.”
3. Don’t be afraid to get help
Gore’s struggles to get qualified for college — and stay healthy once he got there — taught him the importance of accepting others’ help when necessary, and it’s a lesson he hasn’t forgotten.
As an older player, his body is less forgiving with bad food than ever, so he uses a personal chef who keeps his calories in check and makes sure he gets the nutrition he needs.
“I try to be strict in the season,” Gore said.
Gore also works out with trainer Pete Bommarito, who owns several facilities in South Florida and is widely respected in athlete circles.
“I’ve been there my whole career, since I came out,” Gore said.
Bommarito’s tough workouts are a big reason Gore — who hasn’t missed a regular-season game since 2010 — was able to run for 1,000 yards as recently as 2016, the year he turned 33, and came close to topping the 1,000-yard mark last year (961 yards).
“You’ve got to know what helps you be successful during the season,” Gore said.
4. Find motivation to keep going
Gore had some great times in San Francisco, including five Pro Bowl berths and a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. But the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens also stoked his desire to complete his legacy by winning a championship, a reason he left for the Indianapolis Colts in 2015.
“They’d just went to the AFC championship,” Gore said. “I thought that if me and [former Hurricanes teammate] Andre Johnson went there, we’d be missing piece.”
That never came to fruition, as injuries and age caught up to the Colts. But Gore kept trucking, averaging nearly 1,000 rushing yards in three seasons there, and when Gore’s deal ran out this spring, he knew he wasn’t done because he hadn’t yet won that elusive title.
“It would be tough, man, given the success I’ve already had,” Gore said, when asked if he’d still be playing if he’d already won a Super Bowl.
Few considered the Dolphins a Super Bowl contenders this year, but Gore doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Plus, Miami offered Gore the chance to be closer to his son Frank Gore Jr. — a junior running back at nearby Killian High School who just got a scholarship offer from Kentucky — and he couldn’t pass up the chance to watch his son play on a regular basis.
“I’m not gonna lie, man,” Gore said. “I love that I play on Sundays but I can’t wait [to watch him on] Fridays.”
5. Play to strengths
Gore has been his typical, reliable self for the Dolphins. While he hasn’t run a 40 in ages — “since I was drafted,” he says with a laugh — he knows he isn’t as fast as he used to be.
Still, Gore has carried the ball 72 times for 332 yards this season — an impressive 4.6 yards per carry — and he attributes his recent success in a young man’s game to his ability to play to his strengths, which are his vision, niftiness and power.
“Whatever I feel like I’m good at, I try my best to do,” Gore said. “I’m not the fastest guy, but when it comes to agility, getting in and out of cuts and seeing something and going to get it, I do my best to make sure that’s on point.”
This is Gore’s fifth and final tip to beating Father Time. But the funny thing is, the older he gets — and more he’s asked about his age — the more it motivates him to remember tip No. 1.
“As soon as you hit a certain age, you hear [doubts] again,” Gore said. “And when I’m running on the field and doing agility drills, I’m thinking about [my team] drafting a young guy, and I’m getting ready, preparing for this.”
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