INDIANAPOLIS —Frank Gore is thankful for his family and for still being able to play the game he loves.
With Thanksgiving upon us — and an Indianapolis Colts rematch with the Tennessee Titans mere days away — it's interesting to see how the 13-year veteran's "family" has grown with each year due to the relationships formed in the locker room and on the field.
Case in point? Gore, referring to rookie running back Marlon Mack as "25," shared that he will likely join his protégé for some holiday down time Thursday after practice and meetings.
"This year my family is going to come out Friday, so I'm going to relax and then just go to '25's' house tomorrow," Gore told reporters on Wednesday. "He's got his mom and his people coming to town so, you know, we're from Miami so I know the food will be good."
The love of South Florida by the running back duo includes their favorite professional athlete, LeBron James, who brought back-to-back NBA titles to the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.
This is just another smaller commonality that has allowed the pair to forge a strong relationship — one that will be key in preparing to work together to make a late-season push.
"The bye week was good," Gore said. "Now we get ready for a division game and still got a chance to make a run, especially looking at the AFC. It's like the Wild Card [we're only] two games out. We've just got to continue to believe in ourselves, keep working and go out here this Sunday and try to get a win."
This positive attitude and workmanlike approach has made an immediate impact on Mack, whose locker is directly next to Gore's.
Even when they're not on the field or in a meeting room together, the rookie can soak in knowledge from the guy next to him, who needs just 89 yards to surpass Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis for sixth place on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
"This is just cool. I mean, since I got here he's always been a great guy to go to and always handle it," Mack said. "It's great on the field and off the field because he's always that guy I know I can lean on and count on for anything I need."
As for the best piece of advice the 2017 fourth-round draft choice out of South Florida has received from the five-time Pro Bowl selection?
"He always tells me don't get down on yourself," Mack said of Gore. "One play is one play, so when I know I mess up he lets me know it's one play and just get ready for the next one and lets go out and do better."
Doing better will be a must for the Colts' running backs, and the team itself, if they are to improve on their last performance against the Titans, a 36-22 Week 6 loss in Nashville on Monday Night Football.
The pair totaled only 67 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards in that contest against the Titans' stout run defense, which enters Sunday's game allowing just 89.2 rushing yards per game — a fact that isn't lost on head coach Chuck Pagano.
"Defensively, they're really good, 14th in the league, and they're (fifth) against the run, (fifth) on third down," Pagano said at his Wednesday press conference. "They're really hard to run against, and they get you in third-and-long."
The red zone is an area in which Gore and Mack can make a difference, improving on the team's 25-percent efficiency rate last time out against Tennessee.
"We've had opportunities. We had two in the first ball game against these guys," Pagano said. "Credit the defenses. They're doing a nice job, and then again it comes down to executing and going through your progressions and blocking guys and running and making plays."
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey knows what the Colts' running backs are capable of, and has recognized how Indy's backfield has continued to evolve this season.
"They're nice complements. Really nice complements," Mularkey said via conference call with local Indianapolis media Wednesday. "They're using more of Mack on first and second down, and you're talking about a guy that's got threatening speed if you give him a crease. And Gore, he just won't go away. He's running like he's been running his whole career."
For Gore — as he's been teaching Mack along the way — the Colts need to start playing postseason style football right now. After getting some turkey in their bellies together on Thursday, Gore hopes the running backs can lead the way Sunday against the Titans to start a little run over the last six games of the regular season.
"As long as people are balling every day, practice hard, keep our head down and keep working and get this win this Sunday, you know, take it one game at a time," Gore said. "Look at it like it's a playoff. You've got the AFC and everything is stacked right there."