Frank Gore: I didn’t join Miami Dolphins just to ride anyone’s coattails

Frank Gore had 1,206 yards from scrimmage for Indianapolis last season. (Sam Riche/TNS)

DAVIE — Frank Gore knows what you’re thinking.

OK, maybe not you, specifically, but “you,” as in many of you out there.

He’s the former University of Miami hero who in a perfect world would have been drafted by his hometown Dolphins, which he thought would happen way back in 2005. Didn’t happen. But that was a lot of years and a lot of yards — actually, a lot of miles — ago.

He’s finally wearing Dolphins colors and about to turn 35, which isn’t ancient by running back standards.

It’s unheard of.

But if you think this is some kind of yearlong farewell tour for Frank Gore, forget it.

“Some guys go to different teams and feel like when they get older, they just want to just ride the coattails of other guys,” said Gore, who ran for 961 for Indianapolis last year. “I don’t want to do that. I respect every man on this team. But I’m here to still play and help the young guys, but I want to show the fans in Miami that I can still be a top guy in this league.”

Gore doesn’t walk around boasting about it, but it’s a sense of pride that the only backs to have ever rushed for more yards than his 14,026 are named Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin.

“I don’t think about it, but when people ask me, it’s a blessing,” Gore said. “Thinking about where I came from, coming out of college with two ACLs and all the doubters saying I won’t be able to play two or three years, getting picked in the third round was a reach — I’m still going.”

Gore played at Coral Gables High before becoming a Hurricane. The San Francisco 49ers stole him in the third round in ’05, the 65th pick overall. The Dolphins had the second pick that year and chose a running back, but it was Auburn’s Ronnie Brown, who had a good career, including a 1,008-yard season in 2006, but his 5,391 yards don’t compare to Gore’s.

“When I had to do the workout for the team, I thought they were going to take me in like the second or third round,” Gore said of the Dolphins. “But when they took Ronnie, I was like, ‘That’s out the door.’ Because they worked the hell out of me. I said, ‘I might have a chance to get drafted here,’ but it didn’t happen, but it’s all good. I feel like I’ve had a pretty good career so far.”

Now it comes full circle. Not only is he back home, but he finally gets to watch his son, Frank Jr., playing for Miami-Killian High. Junior, if you really had to ask, is a running back.

“My kids get to see me every day,” Gore said. “I get to see my oldest son’s high school games. It’s probably my first time to really get to see him play since I’ve been in the NFL, so that’s a plus. Just to be back playing in front of my fans, it’s very big and I’m happy for it.”

Gore recently was talking with an older cousin who pointed out he’ll soon be No. 4 on the all-time rushing list.

“I told him I don’t think about it because, I guess, I’m still playing,” Gore said. “I think when I’m done, then I’ll look back and then it probably will hit me. I’ve been blessed and I’m happy.

“I’m going to show this organization that they picked the right guy by bringing me in this year.”

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Damien Williams signed relatively cheaply, so why isn’t he a Dolphin?

Damien Williams is with the Chiefs now. (Getty Images)

ORLANDO—Damien Williams seemed like he’d be a tough player for Dolphins coach Adam Gase to lose, and Gase confirmed that when talking about what kind of player Kansas City is getting by signing him.

Williams, who turns 26 next week, was a big success for Miami’s player development program. He went from an undrafted free agent to the starting running back, and Gase found all kinds of ways to use him. He often portrayed Williams as his type of player and had a hint of regret about his departure.

“A tough, football intelligent, playmaker,” Gase said. “He’s just a guy that when Sundays come around, he’s going to give you everything he has. When things are going bad, you get the ball to him and he’ll make something happen.

“He’s got passion for the game. He’s one of the guys I loved being around, whether it be practice or game day. Just seeing him grow over the time that we’ve been together, it was a great experience.”

The retooled backfield of Williams and Kenyan Drake had success after the Jay Ajayi trade last year and looked like an ideal combination for the offense Gase wants to run. Williams had 202 total yards in three full games as the starter.

The confusing part of this situation is that seems like it would have been easy for the Dolphins to keep Williams.

He likely would’ve been headed toward a larger, multi-year contract had he not needed shoulder surgery after last season, but ended up signing with the Chiefs for one season at $1.5 million.

Miami, meanwhile, signed 34-year-old Frank Gore to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. The team did save about $750,000 in salary cap space by going with Gore compared to the contract Williams signed.

Gase’s answer as to why one of his favorite players got away was that Williams initially was looking for a bigger deal than the Dolphins were willing to do. By the time they could have revisited, the team shifted its attention to veterans like Gore and DeMarco Murray.

“I think when he really entered this process, they were thinking more than what we were really at,” Gase said. “By the time it circled back around, we were already kind of moving on. I was looking for what we ended up getting with Frank. I wanted that veteran guy that had a lot of experience and really could help Drake take his game to the next level.”

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Miami Dolphins: RB Frank Gore more than just Kenyan Drake’s mentor

The Dolphins don’t think Frank Gore is done yet. (Getty Images)

ORLANDO—Adam Gase was just a low-level assistant for the 49ers in 2008, not even a position coach, but what he saw from running back Frank Gore that season stuck with him for a decade.

Gore was in his early prime then, plowing through defenders for one of his nine 1,000-yard seasons, and already had the professionalism of a veteran. That, along with the technical mastery and studious approach he remembered, is why he wanted to bring him to the Dolphins despite being almost 35 years old.

“Seeing Frank Gore, that gets me going,” Gase said. “It’s been 10 years since we were together. I mean it seems like forever. The guy looks exactly the same. Just everything about him. I’m excited to see what he can do to help us.”

That role will be multi-pronged. He’s on the team to mentor 24-year-old Kenyan Drake, but this is more than a symbolic signing. While Gase believes Gore is the right guy to “help Drake take his game to the next level,” he also views him as the ideal power back for the Dolphins’ offense.

They signed him to a one-year, minimum salary contract as opposed to bringing back Damien Williams, who signed for $1.5 million on a one-year deal with the Chiefs.

In an era where running backs are thought to be obsolete once they hit 30, Gore is one of the NFL’s greatest anomalies.

In 13 seasons, he’s played 196 of a possible 208 games and hasn’t missed one since 2010. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler who ranks No. 5 in NFL history in rushing, and the numbers he’s posted in his 30s are impressive: five seasons, 5,187 yards (3.9 per carry), 52 rushing touchdowns, plus 1,041 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches

At arguably the most violent position in sports, he’s somehow ageless. Just last season, playing for a brutally bad Colts team, he was a mere 39 yards short of 1,000. That’s promising for the Dolphins, who fully intend to give him a solid share of the carries in order to keep Drake’s workload reasonable.

“I wouldn’t doubt Frank with anything,” Gase said. “I know a lot of people are looking at his age but with him, it’s irrelevant. He’s a different dude… When you watch him run, the physicality he plays with, pad level, the way that he’s able to drive defenders when they’re hanging on him and carrying them still, he’s a good fit for us.

“I think he’s a great guy for us to have in that locker room and that running back room. I think he’s a great guy for Drake to see work day in and day out, and those two guys kind of being able to do their thing together. That’s going to be a fun thing to watch.”

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Breaking: Veteran RB Frank Gore returning home to join the Miami Dolphins

Frank Gore of the Colts rushes for a 37-yard touchdown against the Dolphins in 2015. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Erase Damien Williams. Add Frank Gore.

The Dolphins’ running back corps underwent swift change inside of a couple of hours Thursday as Williams agreed to join the Kansas City Chiefs and Gore decided to return home and join the Dolphins, a league source confirmed.

Gore soon will turn 35, long after most running backs have no legs left, but as South Floridians know, Gore isn’t any running back.

Originally from Coral Gables High and the University of Miami, he went on to have a Pro Bowl career with the San Francisco 49ers, who made him their third-round pick in 2005.

Gore has spent the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, never failing to rush for at least 950 yards despite playing behind a suspect offensive line and often without the benefit of quarterback Andrew Luck to keep defenses honest.

Last season, Gore ran 261 times for 961 yards (a 3.7 average), with three touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 245 yards and a TD.

At one point last week, Gore was thought to be nearing an agreement to join the Detroit Lions.

Gore is expected to be a change-of-pace power back to support Kenyan Drake on the Dolphins.

Gore is one of the most accomplished running backs in NFL history and fifth on the all-time rushing list at 14,026 yards. He could surpass No. 4 Curtis Martin (14,101) this season and is about 1,200 yards behind Barry Sanders for third.

He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection with San Francisco, last making the game in 2013, and has topped 1,000 yards in nine of his 13 seasons.

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2018 NFL free agents: RB Frank Gore visits Miami Dolphins

Frank Gore looks like he still has something to offer. (Getty Images)

As the Dolphins sift through the second wave of free agents, they are hosting veteran running back Frank Gore. Gore is at the team facility in Davie today, a source said, and could be a significant addition to Miami’s young running back corps.

Gore, a homegrown talent who starred at the University of Miami, turns 35 this spring but hardly looks like it. He’s coming off a season of 961 yards and three touchdowns on 261 carries for the Colts.

The Dolphins appear to be headed into the season with Kenyan Drake as their top running back, and the backups under contract are Senorise Perry (eight career carries) and Brandon Radcliff (zero career NFL appearances). With $2.6 million in cap hits scheduled for 2018, they are currently spending the third-lowest amount on running backs in the NFL.

They have explored other options at running back, including hosting DeMarco Murray for a visit. The Dolphins have also been linked to Denver running back C.J. Anderson, who signed an offer sheet with them two years ago but returned to the Broncos when they matched it. Denver is thought to have Anderson on the trading block.

Drake, 24, was the Dolphins’ third-round pick in 2016 and took over as the lead back last year after they traded Jay Ajayi and lost Damien Williams to a shoulder injury. In nine games after the Ajayi trade, Drake rushed for 619 yards (five per carry), had 232 receiving yards and four total touchdowns.

Gore is one of the most accomplished running backs in NFL history and currently stands fifth on the all-time rushing list at 14,026 yards. He could surpass No. 4 Curtis Martin (14,101) this season and is about 1,200 yards behind Barry Sanders for third.

He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection with San Francisco, last making the game in 2013, and has topped 1,000 yards in nine of his 13 seasons. He played for the Colts the last three years, totaling 2,953 yards and 13 touchdowns on 784 carries. Not bad considering running backs are supposed to be done when they hit 30.

That’s not exactly shocking from Gore, who has defied doubters throughout his career.

He came back from a torn ACL while playing for the Hurricanes in 2002 and ’03 and nearly hit 1,000 yards as a senior. The 49ers drafted him in the third round, and he announced himself with an outstanding second season in which he rushed for 1,695 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

His durability might be the most impressive thing about his pro career. Gore played in 196 of a possible 208 regular-season games during his time with the 49ers and Colts. He has not missed one since 2010. He’s carried the ball 3,226 times, including 261 last year (eighth in the league).

Gore should be a fairly affordable addition if the Dolphins decide to sign him. He played on a three-year, $12 million contract in Indianapolis, and the market for him now would likely be a one year at something close to that annual salary. His career earnings are estimated at close to $60 million.

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