Have you ever truly meditated on what a 49er is? Back during the mid 1800’s there were numerous incursions on the Sierra Nevada. Outlanders ventured from all sorts of locations across the globe to behold places like Sutter’s Mill, where a few flakes of gold caused the bustle we identify today as “The California Gold Rush”.
It was a dog eat dog world. People suffered tremendous hardships watching family members fall ill from disease(s). A combination of malnutrition and mining accidents never halted the quest for those precious yellow nuggets. Payday was earned by those who could tolerate such inadequate conditions. Some miners even died on the journey, never to catch the slightest glimpse of the prizes they coveted.
Those who did survive knew how to adapt to environmental conditions and persevere. There was something optimistic rooted in the late night campfires, collection of canvas tents pitched, and occasional card games. The wretched circumstances wouldn’t bog down families, but instead put them to the ultimate test of living. And guess what, they overcame adversity, and defied the little voice in back of their heads screaming “GIVE UP!!!”.
Similar to the miners, Frank Gore was once confronted with a difficult question. However, unlike those who suffered during the California Gold Rush, Gore’s question wasn’t “When do I give up?”. Gore’s contemplation revolved around this interrogative: “Will I ever be able to give up?”.
Some of you may be familiar with Gore’s profile of on-field achievements and off-field feats. Two ACL surgeries, a boatload of academic issues stemming back to his early education and a learning disorder through no fault of his own. Tack on caring for his mother plagued by kidney-disease, a rough upbringing, and you may say this guy has no shot of excelling at the next level. Perhaps he’s both emotionally and physically unfit? Well, I ask you all, do you believe in silver linings? Frank Gore DOES.
So, when the kid from THE U should’ve been devastated from separate ACL surgeries on both legs, he just decided to run harder. And when it was called into question whether he could learn an extensive playbook, he memorized different offensive schemes out of his love for the game. Then the 2005 NFL draft came around and he waited hopefully for a CHANCE; being chosen at that time in the 3rd round after 5 other running backs were taken ahead of him. But you know how Gore handled the situation? He bested those other 5 running backs:
- Ronnie Brown (Round 1 – Pick 2) hasn’t seen a 1,000 yard season since 2006.
- Cedric Benson (Round 1 – Pick 4) was out of the league before turning 30.
- Cadillac Williams (Round 1 – Pick 5) rookie season is burned into a homemade DVD.
- J.J. Arrington (Round 2 – Pick 44) is still miffed about not being invited to the 2004 Heisman Trophy Ceremony.
- Eric Shelton (Round 2 – Pick 54) totaled 29 yards over the course of his NFL career (23 rushing and one catch for 6 yards).
Gore did it. He came all the way back when everyone speculated he couldn’t. It’s not that he didn’t have gas in the tank, people just figured that what he was up against, coming out of college, was far too insurmountable to conquer. Number 21 is the 49er’s all-time rushing yard leader, rushing attempts leader, and rushing touchdown leader. Not bad for a then 3rd Round selection who had 2 critical ACL tears. Add 5x Pro Bowl selection to his resume and NFC Champion also. Oh, and don’t forget his (7) 1,000 yard rushing seasons. While all this is great, what do we think of him now?
Over the course of the past couple weeks, there has been multiple sources critiquing Gore on his age and productivity. He’s past the 30 year old threshold. People age, end of story. BleacherReport analyzed Gore earlier this year. In a January 2014 article, featured columnist Bryan Knowles tackled the question “How Much More Does Frank Gore Have in the Tank?”. We’re all wondering that. You can only withstand so many crushing hits on the opposite side of thirty. What Knowles concludes is that the niners are hoping Gore bucks the odds, maybe takes a pay-cut, and at most Gore has one good season left in him. Again, Gore finds himself asking, “Will I ever be able to give up?”. This isn’t a question of defeat, but rather “Will I ever be able to set aside my courage, battle behavior, and come to terms with the fact that I may have to step away from the game I love (due to something out of my control)?”.
The brute of the backfield had no control over his knee injuries at Miami nor can he locate some fountain of youth to spare him from getting older. 49er nation is somewhat nervous. Imagine NOT seeing #21 behind Kaepernick. Everyone’s frantic, but the 49er’s organization also has a keen perception for the type they’d like to be Gore’s successor. You heard me correctly, say hello to 2014 2nd round selection Carlos Hyde!
Nobody is trying to usher Gore out of the backfield. The rookie Hyde can learn a great deal from Gore. Something about Hyde mirrors Gore and that’s his love for the game. Don’t believe me, watch his emotional post-game interview following Ohio State’s October 2013 game against Northwestern (Hyde’s first game back from a 3 game suspension):
On the surface, Hyde’s 2013 3-game suspension seemed gloomy. The new 49er suffered a minor hardship late in his college career that caused him to reflect about the type of player he wanted to be moving forward. “You know that suspension was hard, one of the hardest things I had to go through . . . but I just kept my faith . . . and I prayed to God every night to be there with me, and get me through it”, said a sentimental Hyde.
People keep saying Hyde’s the solution. Out with the old, in with the new. But if there’s anything we should learn about a 49er, be it Gore or Hyde, it’s that they are better suited chasing silver than gold; silver linings that is. Whether the experience is a mishap that leads to a 3-game suspension, the passing of age or something much worse in an ailing set of knees, niners don’t know how to give up.
Carlos Hyde thought his football career was up at one point. He witnessed friends go to jail or be killed in Cincinnati. He tossed at night wondering where he could ever play the game he loved again. He tried to make sense of everything, was sent away from home, and you know what, he even DREAMED. Long nights of envisioning an NFL career where he could bring that never-give-up faith and be understood.
At the end of the day, go ahead and say Gore’s time is up. Recommend Hyde as heir to a 49er’s backfield. Either way, neither of the two have a STOP button. Gore is the gold reserve and Hyde is the silver lining for niner fans who froth at the mouth seeking the opportunity to storm Levi’s Stadium for that glorious Super Bowl parade. The tenacious 49ers, on the verge of a new gold rush.
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