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Never has anyone touched the emotional cords of football leatherneck Mike Nolan like 23-year old Frank Gore has. He has made good on every promise he has ever made both to Nolan and to his teammates as well. He made personal objectives and goals for both his family and himself and is achieving those to a margin of his satisfaction, mostly because of the intense competitive spirit that runs through his veins.
At the beginning of this year Frank Gore had one year remaining on his contract before becoming a restricted free agent in 2008. Frank signed a three-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers after having been selected in the third round in the 2005 NFL draft. He was scheduled to make $435,000 in base pay in 2007 under the terms of the previous contract.
However the San Francisco 49ers and Mike Nolan kept good on their promises to Frank Gore and his agent in Drew Rosenhaus in that a four-year extension has been added to Frank’s new contract that make this deal a five-year plan Frank intends to take to the bank.
The value of this deal is exceptional in that it is worth $28.012 million dollars. He’ll receive a $6.5 million signing bonus and will make nearly $14 million more in guaranteed money over the life of this new contract. The contract will pay Gore $13.862 million in its first two seasons and $18.212 million in the first three years.
Frank Gore will turn 24-years old on May 14th and has played in just two NFL seasons thus far with more than just exceptional results. In essence the 49ers had virtual control over Frank Gore’s contract basis because he was signed already through 2007; and the team could have given him a high tender next year as a restricted free agent, then made him their franchise player in 2009.
When Frank was chosen in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft I can still remember being delighted by the pick based upon his well-known toughness and integrity as a real football player. This is an athlete that will give you 150% everyday of his contract and always lavishes the offensive line that is blocking for him up front. Credit is given where it is deserved and Frank Gore is the portrait of a humble athlete that recognizes not his abilities first but of others first.
The concerns of many teams at the beginning of the 2005 NFL draft were the history of injuries that Frank Gore encountered at the University of Miami as a Hurricane. In fact he had never made it through a full season without being limited in some fashion with injuries since his senior season in high school before holding up as the teams offensive workhorse this past season.
Frank sustained torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees while at the University of Miami, and on top of that he underwent major surgeries on both shoulders after his rookie season as a 49er. Coming into training camp in 2005 Frank Gore faced direct competition from then starting running back Kevan Barlow. He quickly established himself by leading the team with 608 yards rushing despite the fact that he started just in one game, averaging an astonishing 4.8 yards per carry.
In 2006 Kevan Barlow was traded to the New York Jets for a fourth round draft pick paving the way for Frank Gore to be the featured back of the San Francisco 49ers.
Mike Nolan and running backs coach Bishop Harris came away with impressive thoughts each time they had the opportunity of watching Frank both in practice and in live games. Frank Gore in his sophomore season as a 49er was a huge reason that they were so successful offensively and registered a (7-9) record overall.
He rushed for a franchise record 1,695 yards. On top of that he led the entire team with 61 receptions and rolled-up a franchise-record 2,180 yards from scrimmage. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry ranking seventh in league history for running backs with at least 300 carries.
It was simply an amazing season for Frank and in my opinion was 75% of the San Francisco 49er offense playing behind a new and improved offensive line and a new fullback in Moran Norris that has proven ability to open lanes in traffic for him almost at will. As I watched the running game this past season I had serious flashbacks of Garrison Hearst and fullback Fred Beasley leading the charge.
This past season was even better than that with even more impressive results in the end. Frank Gore is the best running back by far the 49ers have ever seen in my opinion. He is one of the young building blocks that will help move this team into contention this season and he’ll sustain his production and even beat it if God is willing to keep him healthy enough.
Signing him up for five more years just made sense based upon his remarkable season last year and the fact that he just seems to get better as the game moves into the second half and beyond. If there is anyone I have never seen quit it is Frank Gore out on the field as his eyes light up with anticipation and intensity as the ball is either handed to him or he is sent on a short route for a potential reception.
“It was a little early because Frank just finished his second year,” Nolan said. “But if you identify somebody you want to have that is a good player, that you want to have around for awhile, it’s good to get it done early because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets and the closer it gets to them seeing that window for free agency.”
What is so special about Frank is that he never is satisfied with just being a productive back; he wants to take it to the next level and become a legendary back. To reach that status in 2007, Gore realizes that he has to do a better job at finishing his runs. There were some occasions where Frank would penetrate the opponent’s backfield for a sizable gain but was caught from behind before crossing the goal line.
Another reason Frank Gore is excited to get this deal done is for his mother back in his hometown of Coconut Grove, Florida. This is where Gore’s mother, Liz, suffers from a kidney ailment and must receive dialysis treatment three times a week. Since signing the new contract the only extravagant gift he has bought has been a new Lexus for his mom.
His greatest wish and prayer is to see his mother receive a new kidney via a transplant and that is something that is priceless and very difficult to come by. Being the family man he is it would make everything in his life complete to know that his mom who is still on a waiting list for a transplant would get that life-changing call.
Just after the 150-yard performance he had against the Denver Broncos in the 2006 season finale, Frank Gore made a proclamation that his sights are on Eric Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 yards rushing in a season, and he isn’t backing away from that statement for one moment.
“That’s my goal,” Gore said. 'I want to do better than I did last year. That’s a big step, but I am going to try and work hard this off-season. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. But I am going to try and do better than I did last year.”
Frank is now thinking slimmer is better. He is currently working on getting a bit slimmer so he can add quickness so that he can, in his terminology, “finish runs.”
Frank Gore stood in at 215 pounds last season, but wants to get down around 210 so that the lighter weight will improve his initial burst and speed. The one concern in doing that though is understanding the punishment he must endure at a lighter weight compared to what he was at last season.
Whatever Frank Gore has as a milestone will be in direct contrast to what Mike Nolan wants and that is keeping Gore healthy over the long season by limiting his carries somewhat and expanding upon the back-up roles in Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson. If there is anyone that has the final say on whether Frank gets to take a shot at a record or help the team become a contender the later will always win out.
Frank Gore gave this team something to hope for in my opinion. It gave us an identity as an offense again. It rejuvenated an offensive line that was mediocre at best just two seasons ago because of the motivation and perseverance that Frank stimulates among his teammates. Anyone on the offensive line will look at you and admit they enjoy blocking for Frank Gore because he is someone that just wants to make a difference on each and every opportunity he gets to touch that football.
Everyone knows how much Frank struggled with fumbling the ball as well. He had costly mistakes during the 2006 season that we all remember but at the moment he made a mistake he came out swinging each time to try and rectify it. Mike Nolan refused to allow the negative mentality to take over as he stuck with his running back and instilled confidence in him to turn his season around and he listened.
No one is harder on one self than Frank Gore. Mike Nolan will tell you that and his teammates will tell you that. The ultimate humiliation for him is turning the ball over and costing the team either field position or points, he goes to the sidelines and has to be vindicated by running backs coach Bishop Harris to try and turn it around. Never quit never give up and make the most of what opportunities you receive.
Going to the Pro Bowl was the ultimate distinction for this young athlete in just his sophomore season. He became the first player to lead the 49ers in both rushing and receiving since Roger Craig in 1988.
Eric Dickerson watch out and the entire NFL needs to watch out because Frank Gore is going to do just what he says he can do, of course with Mike Nolan’s blessing. I am looking forward to being a witness to another remarkable season for him and for us as a team.
He is a man of honor and great integrity believing in himself to do the right thing whenever he possibly can. Frank Gore has painted a new face on this franchise that distinguishes it from the rest of the pack. For all of that hard work he has finally been repaid for that distinction. It was the right thing to do at the right time in my opinion and all of us can be reassured that our offense will continue to click whenever he touches the ball.