Two serious knee injuries have delayed but not discouraged Frank Gore in his bid to lead Miami's ground game.
By MICHAEL SNYDER
Published September 3, 2004
CORAL GABLES - It's a road he knows well. He has felt the physical pain of a body that doesn't respond as it once did. He has felt the mental anguish of standing on the sideline, a spectator instead of a participant.
That's why Miami's Frank Gore doesn't want to get too high, too quickly because he knows how easily it can all be taken from him. It already has been taken - twice. But, at the same time, Gore appears ready to not only come back but start as UM's tailback when the season starts against Florida State Monday at the Orange Bowl.
That's where he seemed poised to be before. After showing spectacular bursts as a freshman, Gore appeared ready to become Miami's starter in 2002 when Clinton Portis moved on to the NFL. But a nasty hit from Sean Taylor in a spring practice left him with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and paved the way for Willis McGahee to become a star.
An arduous recovery returned Gore as UM's starter last season. Though he wasn't the same player who set a Miami-Dade County prep rushing record in 2000 with 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Coral Gables High, he was close. He racked up 468 yards and four touchdowns in five starts last season before tearing his left ACL in UM's 22-20 victory over West Virginia on Oct. 2.
It was as if fate decided Gore would not live out his dream as Miami's latest star runner. Again, Gore spent an offseason working to prove that's not how he intends to let the story play out.
"I've really been encouraged with Frank and what he's done," coach Larry Coker said. "He's having a lot of fun and playing with a lot of confidence. I really see more confidence in his knees now than I did a year ago."
Gore, a redshirt junior, covets the starting job. He has wowed coaches and fans alike with 60- and 80-yard TD runs in scrimmages, but has also spent time on the sideline with soreness in his knees. "When he starts carrying the ball 15 times, we'll see," running backs coach Don Soldinger said.
Gore, who has had to overcome a major learning disability in school and help take care of his family due to his mother's kidney disorder, said he's ready to fight to get his job back, but won't overdo things. "I'm happy to let my team know I've been working all summer, and I'm showing my coaches that they can depend on me this year," Gore said.
Behind Tyrone Moss and Gore, who have dueled for the starting role, UM has converted fullback Quadtrine Hill and three true freshmen, which adds to the pressure of being - and staying - healthy.
When a player gets seriously injured, there's always a perception he's focusing on not getting hurt when he returns. Gore, who will switch his uniform number from 32 back to the No. 3 he wore in high school, said that's not the case with him.
"I don't think about it at all," Gore said. "I already went through it. I've got to just go, and just push it, push it. I'm ready."
Soldinger said: "He's bigger, stronger. The speed will be there. He'll get there. He's just got to test it out, and as he gets stronger and stronger throughout the season, we'll just give him more and more. He's special. He's a special cat."
A cat who doesn't want to use up another of his football lives.
"I just know I have to keep working hard," Gore said. "If I keep working hard, good things will come."