Frank Gore is all a San Francisco 49ers fan could possibly ask for. He’s displayed consistent greatness, effort and class throughout his 10-year run with the team. He’s also as tough as a two-dollar steak, and sometimes even tough guys cry. In fact, Gore is someone who has shed quite a few tears throughout his distinguished career. Gore is a truly emotional runner, and for a player like that, some good cries are going to come with the territory.
If he never plays in a 49ers uniform again, thousands of people who consider themselves “faithful” will no doubt follow suit.
Trent Baalke recently said he hopes Gore will come back, and Gore voiced the same hope after rushing for 144 yards in a 20-17 win over the Cardinals in the last game of the season. But there was an element of goodbye in his postgame press conference.
“This could be my last year (with the 49ers). It’s (Jim Harbaugh’s) last year. I just wanted to finish it right for him. I also wanted to finish it right for my fans, who’ve been with me since I was 21. Since I first got here, they’ve been great fans. When we was down, they was with us, when we was up, they was with us. This year was a disappointing year, they still was here. I just wanted to finish it right. If I’m not here, I just wanted to show my fans the way a 49er is supposed to play,” said Gore.
Gore became the 20th NFL running back to rush for 11,000 yards today. He came into the season’s final game sitting 38 yards shy of 1,000 for this season, and his season total ended up at 1,102. So much for being done.
“I still love the game and I still can play. I feel great. I take it one year at a time, but I want to play again. I want to play next year,” said Gore, who knows the 49ers’ backfield may be too crowded to return for an 11th year. And that brought out his emotions.
“I cried today because when I first got here, I was 21. 10 years, and never been in this situation. Always was under contract and knowing that this could be my last game here, it was tough. It was tough because this is all I know. When I first got here, I was a kid. Great fans, great organization. I want to be back, I wish that we can get things worked out. But I also know it’s a business. I respect the other running backs, Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter. They got potential to be great. I know Coach Rathman as a coach, and if he’s here with them, he’ll make sure they are,” he said.
He also knows that with Jim Harbaugh leaving, the 49ers as he knows them may no longer exist next season.
“I want to know what coaching staff comes in (before deciding where to sign). Also, what (players will be back) who I’ve been here (with), who are ballers. I know when the game’s on the line, they’re going to fight like me. That’s what I want to know.”
Gore will even miss embattled offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who he listed among those who deserve credit for yet another 1,000-yard season.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing. A guy who came in the league, who when I first got drafted here, everybody said it was a reach. Said the first pick of the third round was a reach. I had injuries, two knee injuries, shoulder injuries, but I’m still here. I’ve got to take my hat off to my o-line, my receivers, Coach Harbaugh, Coach G-Ro – who I think is a great coordinator. If he’s not here, he’ll be fine somewhere else too.”
Much like Harbaugh, the only thing that makes this less than a fairy tale ending for Gore (if he indeed plays elsewhere next year) is the lack of a championship. Gore gave his all, grew as a player from a runner to a complete back, and ended on a high note with two great performances at home and the adoration of the fans.
“I heard the fans screaming “Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore” around the stadium. Just seeing all the fans that have been here since I was 21, cheering for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know I can play this game still, and I want to be back.”