The 49ers all-time leading rusher was the subject of our latest 49ers Gameday Magazine.
Titled, “Frankly the Best,” our cover story focuses on the amazing career of Frank Gore, who now stands atop the 49ers rushing ranks.
The cover image shot by team photographer Michael Zagaris and edited by team graphic designer depicts Gore in his blue collar work shirt while honoring his later mother Liz Gore with dog tags depicting her name
A special thanks goes out to Zagaris and fellow team photographer Terrell Lloyd for digging in their archives for some of the best photos from Gore’s 49ers career. I sat down with Gore recently to discuss some of the best photos from his career and to hear his thoughts on those moments.
Frankly the Best
The 49ers rushing king describes his journey in photos.
By Taylor Price, 49ers.com
In the midst of his fifth 1,000-yard rushing season of his seven-year career, Frank Gore has achieved several significant accomplishments in 2011. Not only can Gore lay claim to rushing for the most yards in a San Francisco 49ers uniform, but more importantly in his mind, he’ll be playing in the postseason for the first time in his career. A commitment to his craft along with a positive mindset has gotten Gore to this point. He’s impressed everyone he’s come into contact with during his time in the Bay Area. And it’s for good reason. “He’s not normal,” cautioned head coach Jim Harbaugh. “He’s not you and me. No, he’s not any of us. Not the normal guy. There are super human powers there.”
With 7,468 rushing yards under his belt, Gore continues to amaze. He continues to fight for every yard, for his team, his family, and for his love of the game. And while Gore has provided many indelible moments in recent 49ers memory, he plans on providing many through the rest of his career. Gameday sat down with Gore recently to review some of the best images that document his illustrious career. To his credit, Gore was impeccable in recognizing the year, the opponent, and the game situations in each photo. And he clearly wants to add to the 49ers photo archives. “I want to keep going,” says Gore. “As long as God keeps blessing me to keep running and to put the breath in my body to make it every day, I want to do it because that’s what I love. I love to play football.”
As the first pick in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Gore came to the 49ers with a chip on his shoulder. “I saw a good opportunity to play early and to show the people who took other backs in front of me that they got the wrong guy,” says Gore after examining pictures from his rookie minicamp and training camp. “I was trying my best to take every advantage whenever I got the opportunity. It made me prove myself to the coaches and the older guys on the team.”
Admittedly, playing in a program such as the University of Miami instilled confidence in a young runner like Gore. “Coming from Miami you have all the swag and all the confidence in the world,” says Gore with a grin. The rookie runner finished the year with 608 yards and three touchdowns. His first touchdown came against a Washington Redskins team that included several of his former college teammates. Six weeks later, Gore’s first start came in Jacksonville. It was also the only game his mother, Liz, who passed away in 2007, would ever see him play professionally. “That was special,” says Gore. “I didn’t know it would be her only game. Being able to start, having close to 200 yards all-purpose in my first start against a great Jacksonville team at the time… That was big.”
Gore’s first 100-yard game came in the season finale on New Year’s Day of his rookie year. While many might consider the game to be a meaningless contest between non-playoff teams, it wasn’t that way to the young back. “I know I’m going to get the bulk of the carries,” says Gore recalling his pregame mindset and the Lil’ Boosie song knocking in the headphones before facing the Houston Texans, a game in which he rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries. “I know it’s the last one, I know the record wasn’t that good as a team. But I know the coaches are still watching to see if I can really be that man for the next year.” Gore went above and beyond in proving himself in year two of his NFL career. Gore rushed for a career-high 1,695 yards in his first season as the starter. It earned him a start for the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Down in Hawaii, Gore enjoyed himself amongst rare company. “Then there was me,” says Gore, “being a starter, being a guy who people thought would never be in that situation, being out there with all the other guys who I looked up to in college and high school… That was a blessing.” Gore had to go through some serious highs and lows in 2007. Two games into the regular season, Liz Gore lost her battle with kidney disease, leaving Frank devastated. Looking back on a photo of himself pointing to the sky after one of two touchdowns including the game-winner against the St. Louis, Gore is proud of how he honored his mother that day. “That game was tough for me,” says Gore. “I used to talk to my mom before every game. When I got on the bus, I kept looking at my phone, wondering to myself when the ring was going to happen. Before that game, it was very tough, but I was ready to play with my teammates.” Gore’s teammates lifted him up and in return, he supplied 81 yards in one of the signature performances of his career. “It really was a tough day on me, but I felt that the Man up above and my mom pulled it out some way for me to stay strong and do something like I did.” Gore continues to honor his mother by wearing diamond encrusted dog tags with her name “Liz” and “Gore” spelled on each tag. “Every game, if I don’t wear those dog tags, I just feel strange,” says Frank. “That’s why every game I keep it on my chest. Whenever I go out, I have to have it on. I just feel comfortable with it by my heart.”
One of the reasons why Gore has been so successful is his superior work ethic. Nobody trains harder or wants to succeed quite like Gore. So while some players might despise offseason workouts or the month-long grind of training camp, Gore sees it much differently. “I love it,” he says. “You get back to doing what you love. And at training camp you see all the training everyone did and what they got out of it. That’s what I look forward to.”
Gore continued his budding reputation throughout the 2008 regular season. By that point in his career, Gore was well-known as one of the toughest running backs to tackle in the open field. Looking back at a photo from his 130-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 21, one where he’s pushing off a defensive back’s helmet to keep himself upright in mid-air, Gore shares his reasons for making it so hard on the opposition. “I try to get whatever I can get because in this league, it’s tough to get yards. So when I get an opportunity to break out, that’s why you do whatever you can to get those yards.” Gore also thrives off the energy from the fans. When examining a photo of himself walking through the tunnels of Candlestick Park in the cherry red 49ers throwback uniforms, Gore is reminded of his pregame thought process. In that moment, he starts to think of all the hypothetical things that could happen, while slowly picking up the sounds of the fans making noise in the stands. “It makes me keep going,” he says.
Other than Gore, only Barry Sanders could say he had two 75-plus yard touchdown runs in the same game. That’s what Gore did the same thing to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 20. Sharp as a tack on the details of the game, Gore recalls what it did for the confidence of his offensive line. “It was big because you have to remember the Arizona game before that,” says Gore. “I had like 30 yards on like 20-something carries. In the second game, I had 200-something yards on like 12-to-14 carries, I was proud of our guys. Like I said when I got loose, my O-line did a great job. When I see daylight, I try to get every yard, every time I can. Because in the NFL, you never know when you can get it again.” That day, Gore saw the open field twice on two back-breaking runs that led to a 49ers victory.
Perhaps the biggest change to Gore that year was the addition of running backs coach Tom Rathman, a 49ers legend in his own right. The two-time Super Bowl champion fullback has brought the same hard-nose approach to what he teaches Gore. “God put this man in my life for a great reason,” says Gore. “I really, really respect this man like a father. Even though we’re not the same color, I really respect Tom like a father. He upped my game so much. I’ll say I probably had close to 1,700 yards in ’06, but I’d say working with Tom, those are probably my best years. This man made me realize the big picture of football and helped me not to be selfish. He made me realize what the big picture is, what it takes. He made me want to get to the postseason where other guys had great opportunity, not just about the Pro Bowl or getting your stats. He always told me when you win, success will come. Doing the small things and playing into the system, success will come. He’s stressed all the small things. It’s just a blessing to have this man come into my life.”
Like his position coach, Gore has enjoyed his time around fullback Moran Norris. “We became real tight when he first got here,” says Gore who made his second Pro Bowl appearance in January of 2010. “We both started out second-team, but every time we got into the game, I just remember how tough he was. He used to tell me, ‘You follow me, and I’m going to get you into the end zone the first time we play together.’ It happened and we just clicked from there.” That relationship carried over into a successful performance on an international stage. The 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos in London, England on Halloween night. Gore especially enjoyed seeing a photo from the game, one where he’s splitting through the line ready for his next move. “Mo (Norris) and my O-line did a great job as you see in the picture. Now I’m looking at the safety and seeing what I’m going to do to him.” A late season hip injury halted Gore’s franchise record of consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons at four. But the hard-working runner committed himself to rehabbing his injury.
In his first year under Harbaugh, Gore has excelled in the workman-like environment the 49ers coach has created. No image celebrates the collective effort it takes to win more than a picture of Gore’s game-winning touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 2. “They do all the dirty work,” says Gore while closely examining the expressions of his offensive linemen. “They work very hard and we’ve been together for a while, me, Staley and Snyder. We’ve been through some tough times. But that game, that run, it was the winning touchdown. Also, being blessed as I was to be able to play that week. I didn’t think I was going to be able to play.” Gore has already rushed for 1,000 yards this season and continues to add to his already impressive career stat line. “That’s a blessing from the Man up above to do what I love to do, play football,” says Gore looking at a photo taken against the Redskins that shows off his amazing body control. “You don’t really think. You just do it. It comes from all the training you do in the offseason. That’s the talent God blessed me with, finding the small holes to get through.”
Fighting for every inch, finding his way through every hole has earned Gore his first playoff appearance. After clinching the NFC West with a Week 13 win over the St. Louis Rams, a game in which he broke Joe Perry’s franchise rushing mark, Gore accentuated the win by waving a 49ers flag in an exuberant postgame celebration. “I finally got an opportunity to be a part of something, just like all the great guys who’ve been here,” says Gore. “I’ve done all the individual goals, Pro Bowls, single-season records, I’ve done all that. My first time in the postseason with the whole world watching your team, I feel like if you never got to that point in your career, you’ll never have that experience as some of the other great guys. People put me in that category of the top backs, now I can say it’s my first opportunity to do it in the playoffs.”
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