A San Francisco 49ers legend is finally hanging up his cleats. Running back, Frank Gore told Heidi Watney on an Instagram Live interview for Bovada that he plans to sign a one-day contract with the 49ers over the next few months and officially retire. Gore said he is in conversation with 49ers owner/CEO Jed York to iron out the specific details.
Gore hinted in the interview that he hoped to join the 49ers’ front office in a full-time capacity. The Athletic’s Matt Barrows reported that York and the team had not determined Gore’s exact role at this time but suggested that the running back will be joining their personnel department at some point soon. Barrows noted that Gore’s eye for talent has always stood out to those around him.
While the news of Gore’s retirement does not come as a huge shock after he went unsigned in 2021, it marks the end of one of the most unlikely careers in the modern NFL. Gore was a top collegiate running back at the University of Miami, but a series of knee injuries left evaluators cautious about his long-term prospects.
When the Niners drafted him with the first pick in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, they hoped he could be healthy enough to tap into his potential for a few seasons. Instead, he proved to be the most durable running back of the 21st century.
Gore was drafted the same year the 49ers selected Alex Smith with the first overall pick. Gore ties Kevan Barlow to Carlos Hyde (the 49ers’ respective starting running backs before and after him).
He was in the backfield for the 49ers’ revolving doors of mediocre quarterbacks like Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Tim Rattay, Shaun Hill, and J.T. O’Sullivan. Then, he saw Alex Smith as he developed into a viable option and helped Colin Kaepernick lead the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in more than two decades.
In the lean years under Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, Gore was the only consistent source of offense on teams that only once won half of their regular-season games. Without a legitimate passing attack and often a weak offensive line, everyone in the stadium knew the 49ers would rely on Gore in their biggest moments. Yet, somehow he remained productive.
Gore led the 49ers in rushing for the first 10 seasons of his career before he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency. After three years in Indy, Gore had one-year stints with the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets before his career came to a conclusion.
From 2006 to 2018, Gore amassed at least 1,000 yards rushing in 10 of the 13 seasons, and he surpassed 1,200 yards from scrimmage in each campaign. Gore will finish his career with exactly 16,000 rushing yards, the third-highest mark in NFL history behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.
It feels right that Gore will retire with the 49ers in front of a fanbase that views him as the first light at the end of a long tunnel of frustration and mediocrity that the team was stuck in from 2003 through 2010. Now, just as the Niners were Gore’s starting point as a player roughly 17 years ago, they are slated to be his launching pad for the next stage of his football journey.