He’s almost like the 49ers’ version of Yoda. Sure, he’s a little taller and a lot younger. But in terms of respect earned, his mental accuity and the rarity of his skill set, Frank Gore measures up to the beloved Star Wars character.
Gore wasn’t expected to come out like he did in Week 1. Not after years of pounding, the broken hip two years ago, the knee problems last year. Gore’s almost 30 years old, which in running back years is like 800 for an aging Jedi. But he ran for 112 yards in Green Bay, the first time in his NFL career he passed the century mark in yardage in his team’s opening game.
He is often overlooked by the mainstream media in comparison to fantasy monsters like Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, but the 49ers are his team. Even though he plays a position that has sadly almost come to be seen as disposable, Gore may be the most irreplaceable guy on the team because he’s a one of a kind back.
“He’s one of the most unique guys I’ve ever been around,” Greg Roman said. “It gets thrown around a lot, throwback, old school. Frank, we could go anywhere and chalk up a football field. Pads, no pads, however you want to play it, let’s go. Frank’s going to play. He’s unbelievably tough, passionate, competitive.”
But what Gore offers is also distinctive in ways other than effort, determination and pain tolerance.
“His running style is very unique. Can’t say that I’ve quite seen anybody like him. With his size, weight. He’s got so much quickness, power, short area vision,” Roman said. “Quick decisions. He just has a feel. His brain and his feet work in tandem. I’m not a scientist or a neurologist, but his brain impulses lead quickly to his feet.”
Gore is also a fantastic blocker, he has a master’s grasp of the offense, and can often be seen during practice discussing (perhaps even arguing) with Tom Rathman. Gore has earned the right cut to speak his mind, like when he broke down the 49ers’ offense after beating the Packers.
“Me, Kendall, Brandon will get back. Randy, Mario, Crabtree, Vernon, Delanie, that sounds scary. That’s scary for a lot of people,” Gore said.
After struggling through losing season after losing season in a limited offense that gave opposing defenses no choice but to focus on him, Gore’s simultaneous senses of urgency and confidence are palpable. Just check out the postgame speech after the 49ers’ 30-22 win, which you can see on 49ers.com.
In the video (which starts with Anthony Davis giving the Dikembe finger-wave to Packers fans as he headed to the locker room), Harbaugh interrupted his own postgame speech to say, “Frank Gore, you got something to say to the team?”
“Our goal was to what?,” Gore asked.
The team yelled “Win the opener!”
“We did that. We got to keep going, keep fighting, keep working hard every week, man.”
The words weren’t groundbreaking, but you could hear a pin drop in that locker room while he spoke. When asked why he wanted to speak to the team, Gore gave a very honest answer.
“It’s a great win. Going to Green Bay, a lot of tradition. Haven’t beaten them (in Lambeau) since 1990. That’s big. That’s big. Everybody got Green Bay No. 1, best in the NFL, and we go over there and beat them on their home field. So that was big.”
It’s his place to speak after wins like those, and everyone from the coaches on down will listen. Gore hasn’t been around as long as your average Jedi, but he knows that the time is now to win his first championship. As an NFL running back, this may be his last opportunity. Then again, I’ll let someone else be the first to count him out.