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Happy 38th birthday, Frank Gore

Why I’ll never love a 49ers player more

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From the time we become sports fans, we all have that one. Regardless of sport, regardless of gender, or age, or even physical ability, we all have that one player that we love above all others. Sometimes it happens when we’re kids, sometimes it happens when we’re adults, but certain athletes occupy a space in our hearts that endures well beyond their career on the field. For me, that player is Frank Gore, and it’s not even close.

By now, you all know the story. Freshman phenom at Miami who almost beat out Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee for the starting job. Injury after injury. Two ACL tears on the same knee in 17 months. The slow 40 yard dash time. Third round draft pick. Major surgery on both shoulders. The list goes on and on.

It didn’t matter. Nothing stops Frank Gore.

Despite being drafted in 2005, Frank didn’t see a winning season until six years later in 2011 after Jim Harbaugh became the head coach. Even while toiling in obscurity, even when everybody in the stadium knew Gore was getting the ball, he still produced. From 2005-2010 he rushed for over 6,000 yards and scored 44 touchdowns. The 49ers were 37-59 over that time period.

It didn’t matter. Nothing stops Frank Gore.

The play I’ll always remember when I think of Frank Gore came in the NFC Championship game against the Seahawks in the 2013 season. 4th and 2, just over two minutes left in the game. The 49ers are down 27-23 at their own 30 yard line. Colin Kaepernick takes the snap, gets flushed to his left and throws it to Gore for a 17 yard gain - moving the chains, extending the drive, and keeping the 49ers’ season alive. It was only after the game that we learned Gore had a broken hand at the time. That was the epitome of Frank Gore. At the end of a car-crash of a game, with broken bones, somehow he slips between all-pros Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas to make the critical play to save their 49ers’ asses (at least temporarily).

It didn’t matter. Nothing stops Frank Gore.

Sure, the years have rolled on and Frank has moved on to other teams, but the love endures. Not to mention the 16,000 career rushing yards, the 100 touchdowns, the five Pro Bowls, and the numerous 49ers team records. Those are pretty sticky, too (he’s still the last 49ers’ halfback to run for 1,000 yards in a season despite leaving six years ago).

Begrudgingly, I admit that there will come a time when Frank Gore will stop playing football. It may even be coming soon. But there will never be a time when I don’t wear my number 21 jersey with pride to represent the greatest running back the 49ers have ever had.