DAVIE (CBSMiami) – Veteran running back Frank Gore is an anomaly.
The 35-year-old is defying the odds on a daily basis, turning in quality reps at a position that usually gives up on players around the age of 30.
Gore signed a one-year deal with his hometown Miami Dolphins during the offseason, returning to the city where he grew up as a young football fan and flourished for the University of Miami.
“I’m home,” Gore said. “I’ve been born and raised here. Since Pop Warner, high school, college and now the NFL. I want to be successful this year. I want to do some great things for my city and for my team. I want to show guys that when they get up in age, if you love the game and you go out and work hard, it shouldn’t matter what age you are. That’s what my goal is this year.”
Gore was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers all the way back in 2005, coming off the board as the sixth running back selected. (Miami picked Ronnie Brown second overall that year. Other backs taken before Gore were Cedric Benson, Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams, J.J. Arrington and Eric Shelton)
The caution was understandable as Gore was coming off a collegiate career in which he tore the ACL in his left knee twice in two years.
The gamble payed off in a big way for San Francisco.
Gore played 10 seasons for the 49ers and is the all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns for the franchise.
He has always spent his offseasons the same way, training in Miami with other NFL running backs.
“I love it. That’s the way I train,” Gore said. “I train with younger guys in the offseason just to be honest and keep myself sure, to let myself know if I’m ready and will I be ready. If I can go compete with the young guys during training in the offseason, I should be fine during football.”
Generally speaking, NFL players rarely last in the league past the age of 30.
Of course there are always exceptions, but few play running back.
To say that Gore’s performance so far during training camp is exceeding expectations would be an understatement.
Monday was Miami’s tenth on-field workout since camp opened late last month and Gore has been one of the most spry, explosive players on the field day in and day out.
“I’m playing. I’m still playing. I’m still having fun,” Gore said. “I feel like I still can play. I’m just going to try to go out there and do what I did every year I was healthy and try my best to be me. That’s go out there and play hard every down and try to go out there and help my team be successful and get some wins.”
On Sunday the Dolphins released the first depth chart of the season.
Gore was listed as a co-starter with Kenyan Drake.
Drake, like Gore, is a former third round pick, though they were drafted 11 years apart.
For some players, being designated as a co-starter would be motivation to try and claim the role outright.
For Gore, its not about what might be best for him, it’s about what’s best for the team.
“I come out here and compete every day,” Gore explained. “Not just with Drake, but with every guy in my room. I think we have a good talented room. I think we all push and help each other. With me, whatever my coaches want me to do this year, I’m going to do it. If they want me to start the game off, I’m going to start it off and give them 110 [percent]. If they want me to come in behind Drake or Kalen [Ballage], I’m going to do that and give my teammates 110 percent. Whatever my coaches want me to do, I’m going to be ready.”
That team-first attitude is shared by Drake, who is entering his third year in the league but first as a starter.
Drake doesn’t seem to mind sharing the first team designation.
“I don’t really care, honestly,” Drake said with a laugh. “I want to go out there and win games. I’m sure [Gore] doesn’t care. I don’t care. I don’t think anybody really cares about where they are on the depth chart before preseason even starts. I feel like we’ve got to go out there and earn our spots and go out there and play football. At the end of the day, we’re going to go out there and do what we’ve got to do.”
Both Drake and Gore are expected to play major roles in Miami’s offense this season, and each has good reason to be optimistic.
Gore is coming off a solid year in Indianapolis in which he nearly ran for 1,000 yards (961 on 261 carries) and Drake finished the season in a flurry for Miami.
Following the trade of Jay Ajayi and an injury to Damien Williams, Drake was basically the Dolphins only running back for the last month of the season.
He responded by rushing for an NFL-best 444 yards over the final five weeks of 2017, adding 150 receiving yards and three touchdowns during that span.
“Both of those guys, they both deserve to be on the field,” said Dolphins coach Adam Gase. “Every game is different. I like what both of those guys bring to the table and they work well together.”
When asked which one was the starter, Gase said, “It depends on what personnel grouping I’m in to start the game. Both are going to play. They’ll be on the field at the same time.”
Gore enters the season, his 14th in the league, ranked fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin.
Assuming he remains healthy, Gore will play his 200th NFL game sometime this year.
While he’s played like an immortal since coming into the league, he’s got a steady grasp on his football mortality.
“I take it one year at a time, one day at a time,” he said. “Every day I come out here and treat it like it could be my last. That’s why I try my best to go every play hard. One year at a time and at the end of the year, if I feel good and the Dolphins want me back, I’ll come back. It’s all on how I feel; but I just take it one year at a time, one day at a time.”