Frank Gore has quietly rumbled his way to No. 8 on the all-time rushing list. Yet there are some people who will forget about or diminish all he's accomplished in his NFL career. Whenever the dust settles on his time in the NFL, he'll emerge as a surefire Hall of Famer. Arguments to the contrary are futile.
The 49ers drafted Gore out of the University of Miami with the No. 65 pick in the 2005 draft. Gore was coming off a pair of major knee injuries in college and it didn't look like he would ever amount to the promise he showed as a freshman averaging 9.1 yards-per-carry at The U. However, the 49ers gambled on Gore like degenerates bet over/unders on 10bet.com. But he came out as a rookie and racked up 603 yards and 3 touchdowns on 127 carries. Meanwhile, incumbent starter Kevan Barlow had his second consecutive bad year and the 49ers were suddenly in need of a stable running back to carry the offense while they figured out their quarterback situation.
Gore was the 49ers' starting running back heading into 2006 and immediately established himself as a dominant NFL ball carrier. He ran for 1,695 yards that season– his first of eight 1,000-yard campaigns in his first 12 years. In fact, Gore has had one 16-game season in his career that didn't culminate in 1,000 rushing yards. The exception was 2015, when he went for 967 as a 32-year-old with the Colts.
Those consistent 1,000-yard seasons have helped the 12-year veteran climb to No. 8 on the all-time rushing list. He's 194 yards behind Eric Dickerson for No. 7. He'll finish this year ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson for No. 5 all-time if he maintains the 62.3 yards-per-game average he's had in two years with the Colts.
Part of this is longevity. Some people will inevitably point to Gore's long career and establish that as the reason he's managed to ascend into the upper echelon of all-time great running backs. However, a further look at the numbers would indicate otherwise.
Of the running backs in the top eight, Gore's 4.4 yards-per-carry trails only Barry Sanders' outrageous 5.0. Gore has matched Dickerson and Walter Payton in that category, while eclipsing the marks of Emmitt Smith (4.2), Curtis Martin (4.0) and Jerome Bettis (3.9). He's on his way to having the fewest rushing attempts of any of the top-five backs.
Gore also enters this season No. 10 all-time in yards from scrimmage. He's on pace to pass Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin and Marcus Allen in that category this year. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal tweeted a telling statistic about Gore's dominance.
Frank Gore has topped 1,200 yards from scrimmage for 11 STRAIGHT YEARS
— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 3, 2017
That's an NFL record, FYI.
Gore is also five rushing touchdowns away from cracking the top 20 in that category as well.
This isn't some guy racking up records by simply hanging around. This is a guy who has continued piecing together a top-10 career for a running back without ever getting the attention he likely deserved.
It's understandable why Gore never received national attention though. He never possessed breakaway speed, he was never lightning quick, but he always used patience, elite vision and otherworldly balance to squeeze through even the tiniest crack in the defense.
His running style never garnered him an All-Pro nod or record-setting numbers. Gore has just been a consistently excellent running back well into his 30s, in a time where the running back has become a relative afterthought in NFL offenses. His production has declined in Indianapolis, but the number of outstanding years he put together on his way to becoming the 49ers all-time leading rusher was more than enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. Now he's barreling down on the No. 5 spot on the all-time rushing list and the Hall of Fame is inevitable.
There's a tendency among NFL fans nowadays to judge players based solely on their ability to pile up fantasy stats and top-10 plays. Frank Gore was never going to put up Adrian Peterson-esque numbers– especially on some of the abysmal 49ers teams he played on early in his career. He's the only top-10 rusher to never be an All-Pro, he hasn't won a Super Bowl, and he's never been the unanimous best running back in the NFL. All that being said, Gore is on pace to finish as the No. 5 rusher all-time. That will be the cap on a marvelous career that can only end with a trip to Canton.
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