INDIANAPOLIS -- At some point, when he’s long retired, possibly when he’s coaching or when he’s giving his Hall of Fame speech, perhaps Frank Gore will bring up what happened on the cold, windy and snowy afternoon of Dec. 10, 2017.
He will talk about being a 34-year-old running back with the Indianapolis Colts and rushing for 130 yards on a career-high 36 carries on a field that had seen eight inches of Buffalo snow and felt like quicksand at times.
Gore, like he was that day and throughout this week, will be applauded at that time for a performance in which he didn't look like an over-the-hill running back. Rather, he went toe-to-toe with the Buffalo Bills' LeSean McCoy, five years Gore’s junior, for most of that game.
That game was about adding another bullet point to what will end up being a Hall of Fame career and showing that not only can Gore still produce today, but he also can probably hold off on retirement for at least another season.
"I think I’m showing people that if you love what you do, it shouldn’t matter what age [you are]," Gore said. "As long as you train and love to compete, you can do whatever you want. I still have three more games, so I still want to finish strong and try to get an opportunity to try to get a chance to reach the 1,000-yard mark. I’ve been told since I was 28 what I can’t do or will I fall off this year, and I’m still going and still having fun and showing people on film that I still can play this game."
Sunday’s performance added to a season that has included Gore moving ahead of three other Hall of Fame running backs to be fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 13,827 yards. The Colts (3-10) and Gore have their sights set on Curtis Martin (14,101), who is currently fourth on the list.
Gore, who has rushed for 762 yards this season, needs to average 91.7 yards over the season's final three games to pass Martin. That would have seemed attainable earlier in Gore’s career, but he has topped 92 yards rushing just four times in his three seasons with the Colts, largely because of a suspect offensive line.
"I learned very quickly never to doubt Frank Gore," Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. "You can’t put into words what you’re watching with him. It’s like a movie because they don’t do the things he does at his age on a consistent basis with the hits he takes and what we ask from him. It’s a true pleasure."
Gore has reached his accomplishments with bursting speed. He’s cut from old-school cloth. He finds a hole between the tackles, and if anybody is in his way, he has no problem lowering his shoulder and trying to run him over.
"Give him the ball, and let him run. You meet him in the hole, and you're going to pay the price. I tell Frank all the time that he doesn't age. It seems like he's getting younger." T.Y. Hilton
But Gore doesn’t care about the flash. He wants to get the job done.
"Frank wears you down," receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "Give him the ball, and let him run. You meet him in the hole, and you’re going to pay the price. I tell Frank all the time that he doesn’t age. It seems like he’s getting younger."
Gore’s next test comes Thursday against the visiting Denver Broncos (4-9). It’s not necessarily about facing a Broncos defense ranked first in the league. It’s more about whether Gore has anything left after playing in blizzard conditions and taking 36 handoffs just four days prior. He has proven doubters wrong his entire career, going back to his college days at Miami, where he suffered two torn ACLs. Thursday brings another opportunity for him to do it again.
Gore planned to get plenty of massages and spend time in the cold tub while not doing as much cardio or any leg workouts to try to help speed his recovery.
"A man possessed -- that’s what we’re calling him," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Yeah, he’ll be all right. He takes great care of himself, and we understand, and he understands the age and all that stuff. ... Nothing surprises me anymore with Frank. We’re going to need a bunch of him on Thursday."
Nobody is expecting Gore to carry the ball 30-plus times again, but the reason for the optimism is the way he prepares his body in the offseason. He routinely takes just a couple weeks off after the season before starting offseason workouts with players often five to 10 years younger so he can compare at what is considered a young man’s position.
"The guy is a machine. It’s ridiculous," Colts offensive lineman Joe Haeg said. "It’s unbelievable for a guy his age. You wouldn’t even know it. Based on his attitude and energy he brings every day, he’s definitely a young guy at heart, and it’s amazing that he’s doing the things he’s doing at his age and over his entire career."
Gore is headed for free agency after three seasons of missing the playoffs with Indianapolis. It’s uncertain where he fits in the Colts’ plans for the future. But for now, he is leaving the door open to playing another season.
He knows he likely won’t be the primary running back if he decides to play a 14th season. Of the top 100 running backs in NFL history, only 10 played while at least 35 years old. But no one is doubting that Gore can do it.
"I want to finish strong to give myself the opportunity," Gore said, "and if a great situation [comes about], I want to play."