DAVIE, Fla. -- Frank Gore can’t get through an interview without somebody talking about his age (35) or his status as the NFL’s oldest running back.
It’s part surprise, part intrigue and part amazement. Six games into the season, Gore has become the Dolphins' lead back, and he’s coming off a 100-yard rushing day in an upset overtime win over Chicago. But people can't get past his age.
“I kind of get tired of it because I still can play. I don’t care what age I am,” Gore said. “If I continue to train and feel good and enjoy the locker room and this organization wants me and I feel I can do it, I’m going to do it, no matter what my age.”
Gore is simply tired of people trying to retire him early. He’s heard all the stats and naysayers who yell from the top of the mountaintop that 35-year-old backs can’t contribute in the NFL. But he's balling.
Headed into his 14th year, Gore came back to his hometown of Miami to continue his career. Many assumed the Dolphins signed Gore to play a secondary and mentorship role to Kenyan Drake, but he had plans for more.
“Oh, nah, this ain’t a retirement tour. I want to play,” Gore said. “I want to make an impact.”
Gore has made quite an impact. He became just the fifth player since 1970 to post a 100-yard rushing game at age 35-plus. The last one to do it was Emmitt Smith in October 2004, 14 years ago.
After nearly every game, Gore rocks a shirt that says, “Do it for the Doubters.” That’s what keeps him hungry.
“I was talking to him after the game. I said, 'I can’t imagine what it was like 10 years ago blocking for you if it’s like this now,'” right tackle Ja'Wuan James said. “He runs extremely hard. Even on the sideline, he’s always getting feedback from us on what he likes and saw on the field. He’s definitely a Hall of Fame back.”
In the fourth quarter of the Dolphins' victory over the Bears, Gore wore down Chicago’s defense by chopping off big run after big run. He’s a beast to tackle even at his advanced age, a prospect made more difficult when the Dolphins are at home because of the Miami heat.
“You can feel some teams wearing down,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Some of the teams we’ve played lately, we’ve run more inside stuff than outside stuff. Frank has had some more carries that way and playing into his strengths.”
Gore can still be the closer. He can still be the short-yardage back. He can still create fear in a defense.
Gore is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, tied for 10th among NFL running backs, and leads Miami with 303 rushing yards despite playing less than 40 percent of the offensive snaps.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase loves Gore’s ability to keep the offense on schedule and maximizing what’s available on his runs.
After Sunday’s game, Gore got a text message from his good friend and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, who gave him props for his performance and gave him tips on what he can do better. That’s what Gore seeks -- validation and constructive criticism from people he respects.
It could have been a weird dynamic for Gore -- the clear lead back with 200-plus carries in each of his previous 12 NFL seasons -- in Miami, joining a backfield with a young, potential lead back in Drake.
Instead, Gore has taken Drake under his wing and helped him evolve his game and vision. On Sunday, after Drake fumbled at the Bears' 1-yard line in overtime, a play that could have cost the Dolphins the game, Gore gave a despondent Drake words of affirmation and picked him up from the ground as Drake cried when the game ended.
“It’s football -- he’s trying his ass off to get a win. That’s it. You saw what he came back and did with it, got us back in position to get the win. We’re both lead backs,” Gore said. “I was tired. I thought he gave us the best chance to get it done. I would do it again. That’s how much I respect and believe in him.”
Drake appreciates that mentorship and often calls Gore the “GOAT.” Gore’s mentality, work ethic and commitment to the team has shifted the way several Dolphins players approach their job, including Drake and James.
“We don’t have any guys who are selfish. That’s what I love about this team,” Gore said. “We don’t have any guys who are trying to be that star. Everybody stays in the scheme and works with each other.”