In the spring of 2005, the San Francisco 49ers used a third-round pick on a running back with a history of knee injuries who they hoped would hold up and fulfill his promise.
Sixteen NFL seasons and 16,000 rushing yards later, Frank Gore most surely held up in one of the most productive careers for a running back in league history.
After all those yards and all those autumns, Gore is signing a one-day contract with the 49ers to officially retire as the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-2010s Team, Gore hadn’t played since the 2020 season with the New York Jets – the fifth and final team of his illustrious career. He initially made his retirement intentions known in early April, concluding any ideas of a comeback.
Gore’s 16,000 yards rank behind only Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726). He’s also tied for 19th all time with 81 rushing touchdowns.
His final career tallies include 3,735 carries (third all time), 4.3 yards per carry, 100 all-purpose touchdowns (81 rushing, 18 receiving, one fumble recovery) and 484 receptions for 3,985 yards during 10 seasons with the Niners, three with the Indianapolis Colts and one each with the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Jets.
The most looming question now is if Gore is bound for Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For many, his status as the NFL’s third all-time-leading rusher makes him a no-brainer. An injury concern coming out of Miami after he’d torn his ACL twice, Gore became a model of durability who played in at least 14 games each season of his career. He was a 1,000-yard rusher nine times.
However, he never led the league in rushing and aside from a career-best 1,695 yards in 2006 in which he averaged 105.9 yards per game, he never ran for more than 1,214 yards in a season or 80 yards per game. His career-high for touchdown runs was 10 in 2009, but he never had double-digit rushing scores any other season.
Gore was a model of consistent production and excellence, but rarely seen as being among the elite backs for a sustained portion of his career.
His longevity was an avenue to marvel at, however. He rushed for 1,000 yards in his second year at age 23 and rushed for 1,000 yards the final time in 2016 at 33. Other than Adrian Peterson, Gore was the back who stayed true autumn after autumn, while others came and went.