Running back Frank Gore is a 15-year veteran who ranks third on the all-time career rushing list. Acquired this offseason by the Jets, he is expected to provide relief and backup for Le’Veon Bell. He runs through some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What are your thoughts on Black Lives Matter?
A: We just need to keep going with it. Me growing up in a tough neighborhood (Coconut Grove, Fla.), I’ve been through some stuff that … and I was a good kid, man. When I was a young kid, I used to have dreads and I used to have golds (teeth). I remember one time police jumped out on me, put a gun to my head and everything, just because where I was at, and how I looked.
Q: How old were you?
A: I was in 10th grade, going into my junior year.
Q: So what happened?
A: I just stayed there and had my hands up. I was scared, man. In my neighborhood, no good areas where we come up from.
Q: How long did that confrontation last?
A: I did what they told me to do. They thought I was gonna run. When I went back to school and I told my coaches, my coaches made me cut my hair.
Q: Thank God they let you go.
A: I was scared. My first instinct was about to run.
Q: Good thing you didn’t.
Q: What is your definition of toughness?
Q: Why do you say you?
A: Shoulder injury, knee injury [torn ACLs in both knees at the University of Miami], hip injury. … I overcame a lot of stuff, you know?
Q: What enabled you to overcome all of that?
A: I know what I wanted to do, man. Being a kid, just loving the game of football. I know I was blessed with the talent to do it. I always wanted to get to the NFL. I kept getting knocked down with injuries, but I know what I wanted to do in life. I know I wanted to be a football player, and I told myself I’m just gonna keep working, and that’s what I did.
Q: Do you like proving people wrong?
A: I have to. My whole life I had to prove people wrong. … My freshman year, man, before my knee injuries, I was totally different. I get knocked down back-to-back, back-to-back. People say me getting drafted in the third round (by the 49ers in 2005) — they reached. That I won’t be in the league no more than three years. Look at me, I’m still standing and I’m still having fun. If you look at my tape last year (with the Bills), I was still having success when I got opportunities. The first six, seven games, I probably was on a pace for 1,000 yards.
Q: How would you compare your on-field mentality to the late Kobe [Bryant]’s on-court mentality?
A: Me hearing stories about Kobe, he didn’t care who it was. What the media say about this guy, this guy’s gonna be great — he didn’t care. He wants you to prove it to him. That’s how I am. The media’ll say this guy — he’s a badass. You gotta show me for me to give that respect, and I think that’s the way Kobe was.
Q: Do you consider yourself the biggest badass on the field?
A: I feel like I’m a dawg out there, man. I’m not gonna back down. I know the guys on the other side know what I’m gonna bring to the table.
Q: What would you say drives you now at age 37?
A: I still love it, I still can do it. And also, just because other guys at my age can’t do it, everybody approaches the game different. Some guys, they get older, they don’t work the same. And I feel as you get older, you still should have a mindset to continue to work the same. Already you’re playing a young man’s sport. So if you ain’t working like a young man, how could you play it? You know what I’m saying?
Q: Do you want to play till you’re 40?
A: Nah, I take it one year at a time, man.
Q: What do you think of Adrian Peterson?
Q: Curtis Martin?
A: A lot of people forget about Curtis because he wasn’t the flashiest guy, he wasn’t this and that. But he got it done.
Q: He told me the same thing about you.
A: Yeah, I feel the same. He don’t talk, he don’t put himself out like that like a lot of other guys. But on the football field, he gets it done. That’s what he did. I respect his game.
Q: Walter Payton?
Q: Le’Veon Bell?
Q: What kind of a 1-2 punch do you envision with the Jets?
A: Our styles are totally different. I know we’re gonna get each other better. I respect Le’Veon a whole lot.
Q: How would you describe his running style?
A: Very patient. Strong. He’s got great feet in the hole. Catches the ball well. A complete back, man.
Q: Saquon Barkley?
A: Oh, man. A bigger Barry Sanders. He’s special. I never saw a kid that big move the way he moves, man. If he just stays healthy, he’s special.
Q: Do you think he can be a Hall of Famer?
A: If he stays healthy. He’s a baller, man. Out of the young kids in the league right now, he’s the most talented one, I think.
Q: If you could build the perfect running back, what trait or traits would you take from Frank Gore?
A: My eyes. My vision. My vision and my mindset.
Q: Ray Lewis?
A: A big brother.
Q: Toughest defender?
A: I can tell you the guys who I respect a lot, guys who I like played against a lot. Kam Chancellor I respect a lot. Bobby Wagner I respect a lot. (Recently retired Luke) Kuechly I respect a lot. Thomas Davis I respect a whole lot. I respect Richard Sherman.
Q: Describe your former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
A: I love that man, man. I love the way he coached us, because he had that mindset like it’s all about us. He didn’t care about the other team.
Q: Adam Gase?
A: That’s my dawg, man.
Q: What do you remember about him in San Francisco 12 years ago?
A: He was cool. We used to talk a lot. With (coordinator) Mike Martz’s offense, I used to try to go to him to help me, like the plays and stuff like that. Very smart man. He used to always love the way I’d compete, love the way I approached the game on game day, every practice. He was like: Man, if I ever get a head job, I want you on my team. When I was there with him with the Dolphins, I was doing pretty good until I hurt my foot.
Q: What are your memories of playing with Colin Kaepernick?
A: The Atlanta game, the (2013) NFC Championship game, how they were saying that, “We’re gonna go after Kap.” To be a young kid at that time, he didn’t get rattled as a young quarterback. When we got down, he stayed calm, and just kept going, man.
Q: When do you think he will get a job in the NFL?
A: I don’t know, I hope he does if he wants to do it. He still can play ball.
Q: How painful was that Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Ravens?
A: It was tough, man. I felt like we were the better team. You think, “Oh we’ll go back again.” You don’t know how hard it is to really get back. My last year in San Fran, we had the same guys, but everybody’s mindset changed because everybody was on their last year. People start thinking about themself.
Q: How painful was the NFC Championship loss to the Giants following the 2011 season?
A: Oh man, that was a tough one right there. You gotta understand, my first five years in San Fran, we were like the laughingstock of the NFL. A lot of guys who had numbers and stuff, they were on way better teams than me when I was a young guy. But I still put numbers up. People don’t give me that credit, and that’s what I don’t get. Think about all the quarterbacks I played with. I respect every guy who gets an opportunity to play in this league. But if you just threw that out there, you’ll be like, “Wow.”
Q: What do you remember about Eli Manning in that game?
A: He got it done, man. We were hitting him, man. He just stayed calm and when they needed something to happen, they got it done.
Q: Do you think he’s a Hall of Famer?
A: Two Super Bowls … I think he’ll get in there.
Q: Who is one linebacker in NFL history you could have faced to test your skills?
A: Coach [Mike] Singletary. Just me knowing his mindset, and knowing he won’t never back down. I want to see who breaks.
Q: Have you ever gone against anybody with a stronger will than you?
A: I can’t say that (chuckle). … You know what young guy I respect though, who plays the game the right way, is Jamal Adams though.
Q: Why do you like him so much?
A: Old school, man. He plays hard, man. I would love to play with him.
Q: You remind me of Evander Holyfield — same mindset, same will.
A: Appreciate it, man. I respect Evander. He had a great career in boxing, man.
Q: Can you describe what kind of lady your mother Liz was?
A: My mom was a tough woman, man. She made sure we had food on the table, clothes on our back … made sure everything was good.
Q: How difficult was losing her to kidney disease at such a young age, 46, in 2007.
A: She was my everything. She’ll call me a certain time before the game. The week she passed, I still decided to play the St. Louis game. It was so hard, man, and I remember during the game, I was kind of struggling at first. What made me know that she’ll want me to do it ’cause I remember she was in ICU when I was in junior in high school. I went to the hospital to go see her. I used to hate seeing her in the hospital. We had to play Miami Central High School in the playoffs. She told me to go ball out.
Q: You still play for her today?
A: Every time I score a touchdown I point up there.
Q: Boyhood idols?
A: Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.
Q: Why Barry?
A: He was just different. He makes you miss, just stop and go, he was special, man.
Q: Why Emmitt?
A: How intelligent he was, his toughness. The vision, the patience he had as a runner. He had great balance. He was a dawg.
Q: What was it like growing up in a one-bedroom home with 12 kids?
A: That’s crazy, ’cause I was with my family over Fourth of July, we were talking about it. I had rented an 18-bedroom house in Orlando and we sat around and I was asking ’em how we did it. It was the same people who grew up in the house. We were talking about how in the daytime we had to put the bed up to the walls. And I used to tell my older cousin who was in college, I used to hate when you come home, ‘cause they to used to give him the bed.
Q: Where did you sleep?
A: I don’t even remember.
Q: You had dyslexia growing up.
A: I didn’t think about school how I thought about football. I didn’t really put my all into it until I knew I had to. Once I realized if I wanted to continue doing something I loved, I had to do it.
Q: What kind of player is your son, freshman Southern Mississippi running back Frank Gore Jr.?
A: My son’s a good player. He’s just gotta keep grinding. He’s got my genes, he’s got my blood.
Q: You wanted to be a football player when you were how old?
A: Since I was a little kid. I actually played with the bigger boys, my mom changed my birth certificate to play Pop Warner my first year. That’s the only time I would say I sat on the bench playing football.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: My mom, Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Remember the Titans.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Halle Berry.
Q: Favorite meal?
Q: What do you think or hope your legacy will be?
A: (Pause) I just want a little respect, man, the way I played the game of football. When they mention my name, they say, “This man was a true football player.” Not even a running back. Was a true football player.
Q: You’re No. 3 on the all-time rushing list with 15,347 yards — behind Payton’s 16,726 and Smith’s 18,355. Can you go higher?
A: I don’t know, I don’t think about it, man. … Let’s try to do something this year.
Q: What are you most proud of?’
A: The way I prove people wrong. When I got 30 years old, they say a running backs at 30 years old, they can’t play. I still showed them that you can play. Same way (with) Adrian Peterson. You could tell he loves the game of football. It ain’t about money for him. If a lot of young guys at our position love the game I think the way that me and him love it, they can do the same thing.
Q: Do you belong in the Hall of Fame?
A: Whenever my name gets called, it’ll get called. Man, I’ve been through a lot. It was so hard to get to the NFL. When I get to the NFL, just saying every year what I can’t do. What I can’t do. … I’m gonna cry like a baby, man.