INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Gore remembers the chatter when he came out of the University of Miami back in 2005. After two major knee injuries, some wondered if Gore would really make much of an impact at the NFL level.
Fast forward 12 years: just four players in league history have ran for more yards than Frank Gore.
Gore on Sunday continued his climb up the league's all-time rushing yards ladder, as he passed a pair of modern-era Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs, Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson, with his 61-yard performance in the Indianapolis Colts' 30-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.
Now at 13,697 rushing yards, Gore sits alone in fifth place on the NFL's all-time list.
"When you look back on my career coming out of college with all the ups and downs, I got here," Gore said. "There were a lot of doubters that thought I wouldn't be here long. I'm still here and still competing. My name is getting mentioned with a lot of great guys. Like I said, that's a blessing."
For Gore, getting the opportunity to move past Tomlinson, specifically, was surreal.
"I respect all the guys I passed – especially the one today, L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson)," Gore said. "I remember when I first came into the league, we played against him in the preseason. I was like a little kid when I met him. I respect the way he plays the game."
Perhaps not surprisingly, those who have coached or played with — and against — Gore would describe the 13-year NFL veteran the exact same way.
"He's a warrior, and they don't come any tougher," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said after the game Sunday. "There's not a better competitor around. He's a Hall of Famer. He's a future first ballot Hall of Famer. But he could give two-whatever about that. He just wants to win. All those guys want to win."
"It's special just because of his character," said Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. "He's a great guy. He's humble. The things he has done speak for itself. He comes in and works every day. He doesn't seem to age."
"It's such an honor and blessing to have the chance to play with him," Colts tight end Jack Doyle said. "The way he goes about his business, every day at practice and game days, every time he goes out there. He's the ultimate competitor, the ultimate pro, he's the man. He's Frank Gore."
Since his first NFL carry on Sept. 11, 2005, for the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter of their season opener against the St. Louis Rams — a two-yard gain off the left tackle — Gore has grinded out tough yards and has been an amazingly durable back.
Sunday's game against the Jaguars was Gore's 104th consecutive start, a testament to his hard work and commitment to taking care of his body, allowing him to consistently tote the rock and add yardage to his gaudy career totals that now have him trailing only Curtis Martin (14,101 yards), Barry Sanders (15,269), Walter Payton (16,726) and the league's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith (18,355).
However, not one to usually bask in the glow of individual accomplishments, especially after a loss, it didn't take long for Gore to turn his attention to the final four games of the season for his Colts squad. While their loss to the Jaguars ensured the franchise's first losing season since 2011 — and just its fourth in the past 20 years — Gore certainly isn't throwing in the towel.
"I'm going to keep fighting," he said. "They have to keep going. We have four more games, and we have a lot of great guys here – a lot of great young guys that are going to have bright futures as long as they do the right thing and love the game."