Scream for more Gore
May 15, 2005 at 12:00 AM
Lizzie Gore is his idol and greatest fan. She is also the mother of Miami Hurricane running back Frank Gore drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round 65th overall in the 2005 NFL draft despite the controversies surrounding his durability.
Frank's mother has been battling acute kidney disease, and has been on dialysis since he was a junior in high school. She has been on the donor list ever since then in hopes of receiving a kidney that will improve her chances at survival.
Frank Gore, will turn 22 this coming Saturday, and he portrays the image of an embattled but accomplished son in his mother's eyes. He has observed his mother struggle over the entire course of his life in trying to raise three children with Frank being her oldest.
The long hospital stays that his mother has had to endure has forced Frank to take on the head of household duties in helping raise his brother and sister.
Lizzie Gore has been a champion to her children despite her illness with kidney disease and could be seen running up and down the sidelines during Frank's peewee football classics.
She raised her children out of a tiny apartment in the Coconut Grove area of his Florida hometown in which at one time the two-bedroom apartment was shared by eight people.
"My mom's been there for me all of my life," Gore said. "She's kept me strong. That's one of the reasons I didn't quit. She kept me with a positive mind."
His mother has and still is his greatest inspiration but he also now has a three-year-old son. His mom now 43 is getting no better and has been on dialysis since his sophomore year at Coral Gables.
Frank Gore left school early and made himself eligible for the NFL draft in hopes of being able to provide the finances needed to give back to his family and help his mother see a better life.
"My mom is on dialysis, she goes to dialysis three times a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Gore said. "I like to see my mom at night time, going to support her, you know. The day before she goes to dialysis, she has to sit up all night. You know, she has all this stuff in her that it makes it hard for her to breath. That kind of scares you."
Many critics including Miami head coach Larry Coker urged Frank Gore to forego the draft and stay his senior year with the Miami Hurricanes in hopes of improving his draft status for the next up and coming NFL draft. But Frank can see no room in waiting while his mother and siblings suffer from one day to the next.
"I just felt that it was my time to go out," Gore said. "It was never about the fact that I thought I would get hurt again, because I felt like that, I would have never thought about going into the NFL where they have bigger and faster guys. It would have been stupid of me."
If there ever was an underdog Frank Gore is that man and could be the next best running back since Barry Sanders in many a coach's mind. He is coming back from two major reconstructive surgeries on both knees.
After a great high school career in Coral Gables High School his college career with the Miami Hurricanes began with excitement but was a minefield of shortfalls as well.
Back in high school Frank Gore set a Dade County record for rushing yardage in a season in 2000 with 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns in his senior year. He rushed for 1,559 yards and 28 touchdowns in 1999, in addition to 301 receiving yards and four more scores through the air.
His high school career was a marvelous one full of accomplishments one right after another. The University of Miami gave Frank Gore his chance to shine in the premier college circuit in the spotlight of so many other great Miami running backs it is here that he wanted to make his mark.
His college career jump started in 2001 as he averaged 9.1 yards per carry and became the back-up running back to future second round pick Clinton Portis. But he suffered a devastating blow when he tore an ACL in his right knee that cost him the entire 2002 season, which was then followed by his left knee that was shredded against West Virginia in 2003, which in turn limited him to just five games 89 carries and 468 yards.
Frank Gore has found a close colleague to confide in with Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James. At the NFL Combine he fell short of his goal in speed, as he wanted to be in the 4.4-second range for the 40-yard dash. After he failed to do this he went and confided in Edgerrin James for reassurance.
"I thought I was going to run a better 40 time," Gore, who was timed between 4.55 and 4.62, told James with a hint of resignation. Said James: "It's cool, man. You've exceeded a lot of expectations."
In 2004 Frank Gore made a name for himself by rushing for 945 yards and eight touchdowns (4.8 yards a carry). He has overcome so many adversities and carries himself with a stellar work ethic equal to none.
Fellow Miami running backs have gone on regardless where they are picked to have success inside the NFL. The Denver Broncos drafted Clinton Portis in the second round in 2001 (51st overall).
He was then the fourth running back selected after then first round selections William Green and T.J. Duckett and second-rounder DeShaun Foster. Clinton Portis went on to become the NFL's offensive rookie of the year and topped 1,500 yards rushing in each of his first two seasons.
Even after that Clinton Portis a former Miami Hurricane achieved even more success as he was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2004. In that deal he landed a $51 million contract that is the richest contract ever for an NFL running back.
This is the type of motivation that drives Frank Gore to succeed and he'll do whatever it takes to prove to all the doubters and critics that he's durable and responsible.
"If I hadn't gotten hurt (the first time), I would already have been in the NFL," Gore said during the scouting combine. "But maybe God felt like I wasn't ready for the next level yet. Everything happens for a reason."
"It was tough, but I never came apart," he said. "I felt like if I came apart with my attitude, I would never come back to play the game."
Other great Miami running backs such as Edgerrin James whom is a friend to Frank Gore and most recently Willis McGahee have a chip on their shoulder to prove. The Buffalo Bills saw something special in Willis McGahee and drafted him despite him being at his lowest moment in his entire career due to devastating injury.
When you look at Willis McGahee, who was once a back up to Frank Gore, he became a late first round pick despite tearing three knee ligaments in his final collegiate game. After he sat out all his NFL rookie season, McGahee emerged in 2004 with 1,128-yards and a 13-touchdown rushing season.
Miami Hurricane head coach Larry Coker had this to say: "Frank could be the real sleeper in the draft if he comes off his knee injury as well as we expect him to. He's an outstanding running back," Coker said.
"If he gets the opportunity, he could emerge in a starting role. He was a work in progress last year, and if that continues this year, he'll be a much better player in 2005."
One of the things Frank Gore addressed right of the back was his weight. He wanted to be better not just mentally but physically as well. He attributed much of his weight gain to the injuries he sustained to both knees rendering him immobile most of the time. He once weighed well in the 230- pound range; a weight he soon realized was unacceptable.
"I couldn't really train, like I said earlier. In the Florida State game I was nine months out of surgery and from an ACL surgery; that is not a very long time to play a whole game in a full contact sport, " Gore said.
"I set a goal during summertime. A lot of people said that I wasn't going to be able to play because I was only eight months out of surgery, but I set a goal to prove people wrong and I did it."
"I played a whole year, and San Francisco saw something that they really liked. They knew I was on my up, being my second year out of surgery, and they are going to get the old Frank Gore back."
Many teams shied away from Frank Gore in this year's draft because of what was the obvious a running back with two surgically repaired knees is a risk not worth taking. But San Francisco through Mike Nolan can see something very different about Frank Gore.
He overlooked the susceptibility to injury and saw the vast potential in Gore's elusiveness and low-to-the-ground running style. Gore bounced back strong from his latest injury last season, and earned invaluable experience.
"Once you get a year or two underneath you, you start to feel you're getting back to where you were before," Gore said. "I got smart. I know when to take a hit, when to give a hit and when to run out of bounds. Some of the times I ran the ball (before the injuries), I ran a little too wild, took too many hits."
Family has kept Frank Gore on the straight and narrow. He attributes most of his mental and physical toughness on this as being the manufacturer of driving him internally onward to succeed at a high level all of the time.
He's already worked out in mini-camps alongside starting running back Kevan Barlow and will provide instant competition to the back he hopes to unseat someday.
Kevan Barlow had an atrocious year last year in the way of rushing yardage and overall accomplishment. The San Francisco 49ers knowing this to be the truth drafted Frank Gore to provide an insurance policy to Kevan Barlow should he not show instant reform over last year's pitiful numbers.
Kevan Barlow managed to rush for just 822 yards and averaged just 3.4 yards a carry and that was behind a shaky offensive line that was both plagued with injuries and under performed to an even larger degree as players shifted from one position to another.
Barlow knows all eyes are on him after getting the starting job last year, in a five-year, $20 million contract. He has a hungry back up in Frank Gore that will be glad to assume his position should he not get the job done.
"That's what I'm here for," Barlow said after a workout at the teams practice facility. "That's one of my roles on this team, to be a leader and to help him develop as a player. But I'm also going to be helping myself develop along the way, too."
San Francisco 49er quarterback Ken Dorsey, who played for the Miami Hurricanes in the days of Frank Gore, said, "Of those three guys Frank, Portis and McGahee; Frank was the one I thought had the best chance of becoming something special. He was a great, great player and did some amazing things."
"Frank is better than any of them," said Miami Hurricane running backs coach Don Soldinger.
This is quite the testament for a college running back with so many unfortunate injuries. Many skeptics don't believe that Frank Gore will pan out to be anything based on the injury history alone.
But he received a clean bill of health from the 49er medical staff and played all of last year without incident so it has to say something for him doesn't it?
Frank Gore has a great deal of humility as well in that he's simply grateful for all of this enormous opportunity in being drafted by his boyhood team. In fact after his first practice with the 49ers he said: "I'm happy to be back." "I'm just happy to be on the field." "I'm happy to be living my childhood dream."
Frank struggled in school academically and often had to have a tutor for several hours a day. He even had to go to classes with children with special needs because of his learning disability.
His mother spent many a grueling evening with her son a well in trying to make that breakthrough with his studies and to bring about change in his condition.
Frank Gore even went to summer school every year to try and make that learning connection a reality on his own. He graduated from high school with a B average; his reading skills were at a 10th grade level. He then earned a qualifying score on his college entrance exam but was seen by many colleges as a risk not taking.
Many schools backed off on scholarship offers to him, even though Gore ran for 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. Many coaches came to the conclusion that he wouldn't qualify for their program academically.
Miami Coach Larry Coker saw something special in Frank Gore though and became the mental sound bite that he needed to establish a sense of security inside him. As a true freshman in 2001, Gore ran for 562 yards, averaged 9.1 yards a carry and even moved ahead of Willis McGahee on the depth chart. He continued to plug away at his studies inside the classroom to further improve his reading skills.
But it was on the football field that Frank Gore made his most noticeable impression to Larry Coker. Defenders couldn't stop him, Miami fans were screaming for him and opposing coaches called him the most explosive player on the field.
Larry Coker many times compared Frank Gore to Barry Sanders, whose slanting style Coker witnessed while coaching at Oklahoma State. Gore could have been the starter following his freshman year but his knee injury kept him watching from the sidelines, while fighting with bouts of depression and believing he could have put up numbers similar to what McGahee did.
"I'm just trying to get better and better," Gore said. "I try not to settle for less. I'm just trying to keep working and working. I'm trying to be the best back that ever came through Miami or the best back in this year's draft."
"Everybody has to have at least two or three solid backs to be a winning team," Kevan Barlow said. "Next season, that's going to be the job for me and Frank and the others. We're going to take some of that pressure away from the quarterback and bring it our way, by running the ball and running it well."
I will scream more for Gore my friends. I believe we may have taken one of the best running backs in this year's draft but no one fully realizes it. 49er fans will be rewarded I believe with what he'll bring to the field and locker room with a tremendous work ethic and ability to deal with great adversity. I believe Frank Gore is that man.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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