Frank Gore. Probably a name we can confidently say is one that will be talked about by 49ers Faithful of past, present, and future. A player that every fan will almost certainly agree was still a member of the team, and Frank, wholeheartedly will tell you that he never wanted to leave. The great thing about Frank is that he is a large part of the heart and soul of the 49ers we most recently remember. There are of course players that connect us with what we can recollect of yesteryear, players like Alex Smith, Vernon Davis, and Patrick Willis that conjure up memories of dear significant importance and nostalgic value. Frank Gore however, Frank was special. With Frank you almost felt that every yard he fought for, was fueled by his passion for the game, his chase for immortality.
Recently, Frank Gore was in my hometown of San Jose, CA for a VIP meet and greet autograph signing in conjunction with Sinbad Sports. Sinbad Elhaddad of Sinbad Sports was kind enough to let me sit in on the meet and greet and it was quite the experience as I ended up being the guest photographer since I was already there to take photos for Niners Nation’s Instagram. Now before this unexpected experience, I was just hoping to drop by, take a few photos of the phenomenon and energy that is Frank Gore, and call it a day. But the powers that be allowed me to be the guy taking the coveted Frank Gore and Me photo for pretty much, every, single, fan. This put me right there, next to Frank for three and a half hours. In the span of three and a half hours, I witnessed multiple people express tears of joy, got to hear a Frank Gore ‘chant’ which the couple said Frank was the reason they got married, joined in on an impromptu song of Happy Birthday for a fan who came to see Frank on their special day, and even witnessed a military serviceman pass on a medal of honor to Frank, in appreciation for Frank’s own service with the 49ers. Frank Gore touched many, many lives, and holds a special place in many, many, hearts.
It’s almost like this article came together as it should have. In the beginning I’ll admit that I didn’t quite know where I was going with what I was trying to accomplish with what I have written here. In the end, I am very glad things fell into place the way that they did. I call it an article but really, it’s a passion piece on a passionate player. In the months leading up to Frank’s autograph appearance since the initial announcement in January, I reached out to some of Frank Gore’s former teammates and friends (Scot McCloughan, Vernon Davis, Ian Williams, and Anthony ‘Boobie’ Dixon) and asked them what their personal favorite memory of Frank Gore happened to be.
I’m very happy to be able to share their answers with you. The responses I received all had a common theme, Frank Gore is tough and Frank Gore is bad ass.
Scot McCloughan drafted Frank Gore with the first pick in the third-round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since that very moment, the two forever became the greatest of friends and in some way, Scot had become almost like a big brother to Frank Gore. I spoke to McCloughan for thirty minutes on Frank Gore, and let me tell you, when you think you couldn’t find any more reasons to admire and respect a player, McCloughan gave me thirty minutes of reasons to pledge my undying allegiance to Frank Gore for life.
“I never met Frank, and never talked to him face-to-face prior to the night before the draft. I was at Mike Nolan’s house having dinner and I get a call from a good friend of mine, and he said, ‘Frank Gore wants to talk to you.’ so Frank calls me because he wants to know how I feel about him. Frank said, ‘teams are telling my agent I could go in the first, or in the second.’ I then told Frank, ‘the issue is you have two ACLs. I promise you this, I respect you as a football player, and as a man. What you’ve been through in your life, the adversity you’ve had, I have the first pick in the third round, if you’re there I promise you that I’ll draft you.’ He then got quiet, and told me, ‘teams are saying first or second.’ I was honest with him, I said, ‘Frank with your medical stuff, you can’t-- you got to be careful. Half the teams failed your medical in the combine because of your two ACLs.’ He then got kind of quiet and the conversation ended there. The next day I picked Frank Gore in the third round with that first pick. Once you show respect and honesty to Frank, you got him. He’s that type of person. First thing he did when he got to the complex for his first OTAs, he went straight to my office and gave me a hug. He said you were honest with me; I’m going to make you proud. I said, I hope so Frank. Frank struggled early, Alex [Smith] got hurt, we went through four quarterbacks in one year, defenses started playing eight guys in the box non-stop. They beat the sh*t out of him, but he’d never back down, he’d drop his pads and run straight into em’.”
Vernon Davis recalled his first post season with Frank Gore. It still in my mind is an unforgettable season. Vernon reminisced about how Frank kept pushing Vernon to give his all. Vernon was Frank’s teammate and friend who played with Frank up until his last season with the 49ers.
“My most memorable moment with Frank was the New Orleans playoff game, our very first post season game of our career. He kept telling me that this was ‘our time to come through’ and that entire game, that’s all I kept telling myself. ‘It’s our time VD.’ Frank would say. He would make a big play and then I knew I had to make one too, because Frank was counting on me.”
Anthony ‘Boobie’ Dixon was part of the running backs group with Frank for three seasons, and when I asked him what his personal favorite memory of Frank’s was, it didn’t take him long at all to compliment Frank on how tough and physical he was:
“I always looked up to Frank when it came to the pass blocking. Frank was a hell of a pass blocker and one time he caught a dude in a gap one time and just really laid him out. He went to sleep. He was trying to blitz through one of the gaps and Frank caught him on the block, BLAM and dude just laid down, he was just laid there, slump. I looked at Frank in the meeting room, and I told myself, ‘that’s why I like this dude.’ He can do it all. That’s why I respect the man the most, he was tough.”
Ian Williams played on the opposite side of the ball with Frank but that recalls Frank keeping it real with Ian during his rookie year:
“You a rookie right? Yea, don’t listen to them, you can hit me (in practice), I like that, but keep it clean.”
Everyone I spoke to agreed that Frank Gore brought out the best in them. That they don’t make players like Frank Gore anymore. There is no way you can find a reason to love Frank Gore any less, Frank Gore only gives you reasons to love him even more.
Myself, I have many fond memories of Frank Gore. I would however have to say that being around Frank for three and half hours, taking in the emotions and energy that Frank instilled in the lives of others as they got to finally be able to tell that to their hero, an actual people’s champion, has to be my favorite memory to date. To see the mutual respect of devotion between fans and Frank, to this very day, and every day beyond that, that truly is an amazing thing to witness in addition to all the amazing things Frank has done on the field. During this autograph signing Frank took a few moments to ‘stretch’. Frank’s idea of stretching was taking a group photo with all his fans inside. He then proceeded outside to do the same. I had the honor being the person to capture both moments. All I can say is, so many happy faces. Frank Gore gives just as much as he does off the field, as he does on the field. There is just no quit in Frank Gore.