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Ageless Wonder: Frank Gore proving NFL norms as false

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At 36, Frank Gore is still chugging along in the NFL

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

If any word or phrase is best to explain former Miami Hurricanes and current Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore, it’s “ageless wonder” or “living legend.”

Since leaving the Hurricanes after the 2004 season, Gore, now 36 years old, has started in 201 career games over 15 NFL seasons with four different teams.

In his 15 year career, Gore has rushed for 15,136 yards (4th all-time) and 79 touchdowns. This season, Gore has started in five of the Bills six games and is currently rushing for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

All of this while playing as a physical player in a position that is as taxing on the body as any position in football.

The average lifespan of NFL running backs is just 2.57 years, a significant drop from the league average 3.3 years. Gore’s second year in the NFL was 2006, when the powerful back finished with his career-high in rushing yards (1,695) and receiving yards (485), along with nine total touchdowns (eight rushing). The season earned Gore his first Pro Bowl appearance.

The more amazing factor of Gore’s ability to stick in a league with insane roster turnaround is the age of some of the running backs (and other players) he has played with.

Gore’s backup running back in Buffalo this season is rookie Devin Singletary. When Singletary began dominating defenses at Florida Atlantic University in 2016, Gore was with his second team (Indianapolis), running for his ninth 1,000-yard season in his career.

Gore is currently the oldest player on Buffalo’s roster, and was the third oldest player on the Miami Dolphins last season, placing behind just the long snapper John Denney and EDGE rusher Cameron Wake.

Another reason Gore has been able to stick in the NFL is his ability to stay relatively healthy in the NFL.

Although Gore tore both ACLs in college, Gore has missed just 14 of a possible 240 regular season games in his NFL career. Five of those missed games came in 2010 when he saw his season end short because of a hip fracture.

From 2014 to 2018, Gore avoided any serious injuries that would force him to miss time (he played in 16 games each of those seasons). In 2018, however, Gore would miss the final two games with a foot strain.

Although Frank Gore’s play style - a style that relies heavily on rough-and-tumble running - should make him more prone to injuries, his durability - which is nothing short of amazing and legendary - has allowed him to stay in the league while so many of his counterparts have disappeared.

Gore’s ability to see plays develop, which has been lauded by many of his former coaches, has allowed him to stick while his athleticism has naturally continued to deteriorate as Father Time has continued to catch up to him.

For example, take this run against the New England Patriots this season. Despite the Patriots having the number one rushing defense in the NFL, Gore can find the crease and attack it for the long run that puts the Bills in Patriots territory.

Gore’s vision doesn’t just appear at the line of scrimmage, however. Knowing that he would be converged by two different Patriots defensive backs, Gore opts to attack the other way, triggering more yards for Gore.

Despite the Bills losing 16-10 to the undefeated Patriots, Gore finished the game with 109 yards on 17 carries. The number still stands as the most rushing yards allowed by the Patriots.

As Gore’s son, Frank Gore Jr. enters college next season with FAU, there is no telling how long Gore Sr. will last in the NFL. That, however, may very well be dependent on Gore instead of his age or injuries.