Trials and Tribulations: Frank Gore's Journey To The San Francisco 49ers

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Trials and Tribulations: Frank Gore's Journey To The San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

When Frank Gore steps onto the field for his fourth NFL season, he continues a destiny that has been shaped with trials and tribulations since he was young.

As a child, Gore was diagnosed with dyslexia and had trouble comprehending the simplest of tasks. On the football field, the talented running back was able to get away from his academic problems and outrun defenders with ease.

"I had trouble remembering things," Gore said in a Sept. 4, 2007 interview with the New York Daily News. "I'm better learning by somebody showing me something. I got to see and then do it. You can't be scared to ask for help. I overcame it and got better at everything."

Gore's strong will to overcome obstacles came from his tough upbringing in Miami with his mother, Liz Gore, who was seriously ill with a kidney ailment since the 49er running back was in high school. After going on dialysis, Liz Gore began waiting for a kidney transplant.

"She had been on dialysis since I was in the 11th grade and raised three kids as a single woman," Frank said in an interview with 49ers.com.

As a football player for Coral Gables High School around the time his mother was diagnosed, Gore was one of the most heavily recruited running backs in the entire nation.

Gore set a Dade County record in 2000 when he rushed for 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns during his senior year. He even set a Dade County single game rushing record when he ran for 377 yards and six touchdowns during a 48-0 shutout victory over the South Miami High Cobras.

Gore showed incredible vision and functional strength throughout his high-school career and was the third-rated prospect in Dade County by The Miami Herald. He was listed as the best tailback on The Florida Times Union Super 75 list and earned "Super Prep All-American."

"I can run strong when I have to," Gore said in an interview with Miami-Hurricanes.com. "But I can also be shifty and elusive if I have to."

As a true freshman with the University of Miami Hurricanes in 2001, Gore totaled 575 yards with five touchdowns on 62 carries—an amazing 9.3-yard average—and was named Sporting News Big East Freshman of the Year.

Gore eventually beat out current Baltimore Raven Willis McGahee in the spring of 2002 for the starting job; however, his glimmering NCAA career was sidetracked when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and spent most of the season recovering from surgery.

He returned to practice that October, was a standout on the Hurricanes' scout team at tailback, and was awarded a medical red-shirt by the NCAA.

Upon returning for the 2003 season, Gore ran for 100 yards in each of his first three games before suffering a similar injury, this time to his other knee.

Many thought his playing career was over but Gore fought back through even more rehabilitation.

When Gore entered the fall of 2004 competing for the starting job at tailback, he changed his number from No. 32 to No. 3, won the starting running back position, and ran for 945 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Before the knee injuries I ran a 4.4," Gore said in an interview with Miami-Hurricanes.com on Oct. 8, 2004. "I've got the same game speed as before, but can always improve. I'm not back 100 percent, but I'm real close. I'm just working hard in the weight room and at practice."

Although Gore was still eligible to play another year at Miami, he decided it was time to take care of his ailing mother and earn a living doing what he loved most. In only 28 games with the Miami Hurricanes, Gore racked up 2,500 yards for a 7.2 yard average and 20 touchdowns.

His two major knee injuries in college and a mediocre 4.65 40-yard dash turned the highly talented breakaway threat from a sure fire first-rounder to a potential second-day pick before the 2005 NFL Draft.

Even before being drafted, Gore was already familiar with the eventual team that would draft him.

"My real team who I like is San Francisco," Gore stated on Miami-Hurricanes.com. "They're struggling you know, but they'll be alright."

"They just gotta tighten up. We lost a lot of people, Jeff Garcia and Garrison Hearst. It's tough in the NFL."

Fate has a funny way of unfolding, as Gore would become one of Hearst's successors along with Kevan Barlow in San Francisco.

Frank Gore's resilience and strength that he learned from his mother were finally answered when he became the 65th overall pick in the third round by the very team he followed, the San Francisco 49ers.

As a result of Gore signing his initial contract, Liz Gore was finally able to have surgery and receive a kidney transplant. The procedure took place when her son and the 49ers were in Mexico City playing the Arizona Cardinals.

"It was really tough, that was first time she went into the hospital with me not being around her," Gore said on 49ers.com. "Not knowing if she was all right or not was the hardest part, but I know my mom is a tough woman."

Gore played in 14 games as a rookie and led the team in rushing with 608 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The last time a rookie led the 49ers in rushing was 1990 when Dexter Carter tallied 460 yards.

His 608 yards rushing was the highest rookie total in 49ers' history since Roger Craig had 725 yards in 1983 fresh out of Nebraska. Gore also recorded a career-long 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of a game against the Washington Redskins and registered his first 100-yard game with 108 yards against the Houston Texans on the last day of the season.

Gore was elevated to the top of the San Francisco 49ers' depth chart after an August 19, 2006 trade that sent Barlow to the New York Jets for a fourth-round draft pick. It was a decision 49ers' brass would not regret.

Gore became one of the top running backs in the NFL in only his first full season as a starter. Gore set a franchise rushing record with 1,695 yards, eclipsing Garrison Hearst’s record of 1,570 yards set in 1998. He also became the first 49er to lead the NFC in rushing yards and set a franchise record with 2,180 combined yards, breaking Hearst’s previous record of 2,105 total yards also set in 1998.

His nine 100-yard games shattered the San Francisco record for most 100-yard games in a season which was held by Hearst in 1998 and Roger Craig in 1988 (six).

After Gore’s breakout season, he was named the starting running back in the NFC Pro Bowl, his first selection.

After the All-Pro season, Gore signed a contract extension through 2011 estimated to be worth $28 million over four years on March 28, 2007.

But on Sept. 13, 2007, as the season just started, Liz Gore lost her fight with kidney disease and passed away in Miami at the age of 46.

''I think that Frank feels that his mother would want him to do his job,'' then 49ers head coach Mike Nolan said to the San Francisco Chronicle. ''Frank knows that. I think that's where he'll put his attention when it comes to Sunday's game. I'm sure it's hard for him to get focused with what happened.''

"I'm concerned about Frank for Frank, not in reference to the game. It's very sad. We'll keep Frank and his family in our prayers."

He missed a practice but returned to the team almost immediately. And with a heavy heart, Gore scored two touchdowns the following Sunday in a 17-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

After a tumultuous 2007 season that saw San Francisco post a dismal 5-11 record with one of the most terrible offenses in NFL history, the end of the 2008 season saw Gore become the first running back in San Francisco 49ers' history to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.

Frank Gore's journey to the NFL has been rough, but he always maintains a positive vibe and uses his extreme passion for the game to succeed despite the many trials and tribulations he had to overcome.

When asked what advice he has for anyone wanting to go for their dreams, Gore said on Miami-Hurricanes.com: "I’d tell them, man just keep working hard and don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it.

"Just stay focused and listen to the people who will guide you right. Just listen to them."

Strong words from an even stronger man.

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