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What if? Wednesday: What if Frank Gore Never Tore Both His ACLs In College?

The future NFL Hall of Famer would’ve altered the course of the early 2000s Canes teams as well as put up even bigger numbers during his college and pro careers.

Frank Gore limps off the field
Frank Gore’s second ACL tear was truly heartbreaking.
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Frank Gore is already one of the most accomplished former Miami Hurricanes football players to ever grace the gridiron. His 2004 season at Miami and NFL career that followed is even more impressive considering he tore both his ACLs (2001 and 2003) before he was drafted.

What if Frank Gore never tore both his ACLs in college? Well, I am going to tell you.

2001 college football season

As you will see in the video below, Frank had speed to spare as a freshman on the greatest college football team ever assembled. He finished the season with 562 yards with 5 touchdowns on 62 carries. That’s an average of 9.1 yards per rush. Frank had two breakout performances that season: 6 carries for 124 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns vs the West Virginia Mountaineers, and 11 carries for 157 yards against the Syracuse Orange. Luckily, nothing changes in this timeline as Miami still wins the national championship in blowout fashion against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Further, in this alternate universe, Frank Gore doesn’t tear his ACL in his left knee during spring practice.

2002 college football season

In both the real world and this new utopia of spring of 2002, Frank beats out Willis McGahee for the role of starting running back for the record-breaking 2002 Miami Hurricane football team. This one is tough. Every true UM football fan absolutely loves Willis McGahee. In fact, I was speaking with a fellow Hurricane fan this week about how Willis was his favorite Miami running back ever. McGahee’s 2002 season was special, and it catapulted him into being a first round NFL draft pick the following spring, despite his gruesome injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. This is about Frank, though. He builds on his momentum as a freshman and puts up big numbers: 1550 yards with 24 rushing touchdowns. Miami’s rushing statistics are supplemented by a fresh and motivated Willis McGahee. The rest of college football realizes Miami has the best running back one-two punch in the country, and it’s not close.

Further, with a healthy dose of Frank Gore and Willis McGahee, Ohio State (Ugh. It hurts to type those two words.) cannot stop Miami’s offensive momentum late in the fourth quarter in said Fiesta Bowl. No overtime needed. The Canes do what they have never done, win back-to-back national championships. What a season. This would also mean head coach Larry Coker would essentially be untouchable after beginning his college coaching career 25-0 with two national championships. However, this is about Frank.

Fans want Miami to play Ohio State
Miami would’ve had a much better chance repeating as national champs with a healthy Frank Gore.

2003 college football season

Miami’s 2003 season was one of the most frustrating I can remember. We had an all-world defense built around Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, and the late-great Sean Taylor. Our offense lost a step with the departures of McGahee and the number one pass-catching option: Andre Johnson. That said, Brock Berlin still had Kevin Beard, future scumbag Kellen Winslow Jr., and incoming freshman beast running back Tyrone Moss. RIP Tyrone Moss.

In this lovely, injury-free timeline, Miami doesn’t suffer back-to-back losses against the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers. I will give us the VT loss; Miami got their asses kicked 31-7. The Tennessee loss however, that never happens. Frank Gore hits the holes Jarrett Payton doesn’t see, and Miami pulls it out at the end, 13-10. Phew. This “new” victory pushes The Canes into the top two of the final BCS rankings, jumping the LSU Tigers and USC Trojans, and pitting us against the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. Larry Coker wises up and puts Brock Berlin in the shotgun the entire game. Vince, Sean, and the boys on defense smother Heisman Trophy winner Jason White and the Sooner offense. Frank Gore leads the way with 25 carries for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. Miami secures their third National Championship in a row with a 24-14 victory. Wow. This is turning out to be a fantastic alternate timeline of events.

Syracuse v Miami
Frank Gore would’ve brought some consistency to the 2003 Miami Hurricane offense
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

2004 NFL draft

Frank Gore was originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft. Impressive, considering his injuries. In this new and exciting world however, having three healthy and productive years in college means he forgoes his senior season and enters his name in the 2004 NFL draft. Frank Gore gets drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 26th pick of the first round. They originally drafted a running back: Chris Perry, of the Michigan Wolverines. Um..who? Further, Frank becomes the seventh Miami Hurricane drafted in the first round, putting the record out of reach for future Alabama teams.

San Francisco 49ers 2005 Headshots
Frank Gore ready to take the NFL by storm.

NFL career

Frank Gore hits the ground running much faster than he did with the 49ers and becomes the perfect offensive complement to quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He overtakes Rudi Johnson as RB1 on the depth chart by week six and never looks back. The Bengals win multiple playoff games during Carson Palmer’s prime. He and Marvin Lewis thank Frank Gore profusely, as he was the culture-changing player the Bengals lacked for so long. Frank Gore spends his first 11 seasons with Cincinnati, becoming their all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer with 13,100 yards and 89 touchdowns: 2,000 more yards and 25 more touchdowns than he rushed for in his 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, in real life.

With his increased speed and agility, the rest of his career plays out similarly, only with even bigger late-career numbers. Frank puts up three one-thousand yards seasons in a row with the Indianapolis Colts. He then does the unthinkable in becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in 2019 with his hometown Miami Dolphins. Frank Gore finishes his NFL career with exactly 18,500 rushing yards and 110 rushing touchdowns. He walks off into the sunset as arguably the most accomplished running back in the history of football. Not bad.

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins
Frank comes home to break the NFL rushing yards record.
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images