Frank Gore ends 16-year NFL career by retiring with San Francisco 49ers


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Most running backs, including some very good ones, don’t last in the NFL as long as six seasons. For Frank Gore, that’s how long he continued playing after a whopping 10 years with the San Francisco 49ers.

Proclaiming his allegiance Thursday to that organization, Gore finally wrapped up a highly unusual — and impressive — career. Beginning in 2005 and ending, it turned out, with his final game in 2020, he racked up the third-most rushing yards (16,000) and attempts (3,735) in league history.

Only a pair of legends, Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton, accumulated more in both categories. Just those two, plus all-time leader Jerry Rice, gained more yards from scrimmage than Gore’s 19,985. The 241 NFL games played by Gore are also the most for a running back.

After signing a one-day contract with the 49ers on Thursday so he could retire as a member of the team, Gore declared that he could “confidently say that I put all I had into the game of football.”

“Football was and is everything to me,” Gore, 39, said in a statement released by San Francisco. “From meetings and film study to practice and just being in the locker room, all of it meant the world to me. I am happy to officially close this chapter of my life and proud of what I was able to accomplish and the legacy I leave behind.”

The 49ers, with whom Gore earned all five of his Pro Bowl selections, announced that he will be inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Asserting that Gore will be taking “his rightful place among our all-time greats,” 49ers chief executive Jed York said in a statement, “Frank had to overcome many challenges upon entering the NFL and now leaves the game not only as one of the best backs in NFL history, but one of the best football players ever. … His grit, toughness and commitment to greatness earned him the respect of his coaches, teammates and opponents.”

If Gore’s longevity is remarkable in retrospect, it would have seemed all the more so when San Francisco made him a third-round pick in 2005 out of Miami. Gore’s career with the Hurricanes was twice interrupted by torn knee ligaments, which required lengthy recoveries and kept him from putting up the college numbers he otherwise could have.

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Gore then missed two games in his rookie season with a groin injury and underwent major surgeries on both shoulders the following offseason. However, he never played in fewer than 11 games in any of his 16 years, and in all but one season, he appeared in at least 14.

“One of the very first things I told the 49ers organization when they drafted me in 2005 was that they got the right guy,” Gore said in his statement. “I knew early on that I wouldn’t let my college career define me in regards to injuries, and that I would have to outwork a lot of people to get to where I wanted to be.”

Even as a 37-year-old on the New York Jets in 2020, Gore led the team in carries and rushing yards.

“Guys respect him so much,” then-Jets head coach Adam Gase said before that season. “They watch him practice and they’re blown away that at his age, the way he goes, it shows you that’s what a Hall of Fame running back looks like.”

Between his 2015 departure from San Francisco and a final season spent in New York, Gore had stints with the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. In his comments Thursday, though, Gore made clear where he left his heart.

“Being inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, one of the most historic franchises in all of sports, is something that is hard to put into words,” said Gore, who is the team’s leader in rushing yards (11,073), rushing attempts (2,442) and rushing touchdowns (64). “This organization will always be a part of me, one that I will forever associate myself with. I will talk about San Francisco as ‘we’ and ‘us’ for the rest of my life, and will support the 49ers and The Faithful in every way possible.”

Also retiring from the NFL on Thursday were longtime quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and center Alex Mack, whose 13-year career ended with one season in San Francisco.

Since his last NFL game, Gore has twice appeared in the boxing ring. He lost to former NBA player Deron Williams in a 2021 exhibition, and in his professional debut last month, Gore scored a knockout win.

In another reflection of his longevity as a running back, Gore nearly played long enough to see his son possibly join him in the NFL. Frank Gore Jr. will be eligible for the draft after this season, in which he is set to be a junior running back for Southern Mississippi.


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