Frank Gore has a chance to climb past Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson on the all-time rushing leaderboard over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, he will continue adding to an impressive mark. Coming out of the bye, Gore has played in 106 consecutive games, and is showing no signs of letting up.
The streak dates back to the start of the 2011 season, following a season-ending hip suffered in 2010. Gore’s career has been marked by expectations that he would not last physically in the NFL. Whether it be knee surgeries in college, shoulder surgeries early in his NFL career, or the hip injury, his longevity was a question mark for some.
A commenter at the NFL sub-Reddit came across a 2013 article that had me shaking my head, in both a good and bad way. The article at NFL.com, was talking about Achilles injuries being the death kneel for running backs. Near the end, the author mentioned Kendall Hunter, who had suffered an Achilles tear the previous year. It included this memorable paragraph.
The next test case is San Francisco 49ers backup Kendall Hunter, who started training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. Even if he stays healthy and productive, Hunter will have to beat out Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James for the starting job once Frank Gore hangs up his spikes.
Frank Gore has kept on pushing in spite of doubts, and easily outlasted all three of those running backs. Hunter and Lattimore remain tough ones to consider given what could have been for both. Hunter was looking like a great complement to Gore before the Achilles tear (compounded by an ACL tear later). Lattimore was one of the most talented college running backs in recent memory, but multiple devastating knee injuries cost him his career. Meanwhile, James got off to a decent start in San Francisco, but just couldn’t pan out as an NFL running back.
These of course are not the only running backs Gore has outlasted all of the running backs selected ahead of him in the 2005 NFL Draft. That included Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, J.J. Arrington, and Eric Shelton. If Darren Sproles retires after this season, Gore will have outlasted every running back in that class.
Considering the injuries Gore dealt with coming into his NFL career, his longevity might be more impressive than anything else.