INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Gore was only with the Indianapolis Colts for a few years, but he left a lasting impact on his former teammates. This Sunday, the ageless running back returns to Indianapolis to face the Colts for the first time since the two sides parted ways this January.
When Gore signed with the Colts in 2015, he was joining a veteran team that was a game away from the Super Bowl just a few months prior. Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson — former University of Miami teammates — were going to be the missing pieces that the Colts needed to get over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Injuries happened. Inconsistencies on gamedays happened. The Colts went from a 33-15 team between 2012-14 to a 20-28 team from 2015-17, the latter being Gore's tenure in Indianapolis.
Through it all, Gore was a rock — a running back with unimaginable mileage but who still embraced a 30-carry game, all while going beyond to keep teammates engaged and motivated. He didn't get that elusive Super Bowl victory out of his stay in Indianapolis like he thought he might, but he didn't let that spoil his time.
Gore and his new club, the Miami Dolphins, come to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
"It just didn't go the way I planned it; but I had fun," Gore told Indy reporters this week. "The organization was great. (They have) great people there. We fought."
Although much of the Colts roster has been churned since Gore's stay in Indianapolis, some of his former teammates still remain, and they have nothing but positives to say about him.
"Frank is just a phone call away for me, text message, things like that," running back Marlon Mack, whom Gore took under his wing as a rookie last year, said this week. "He is always cool, just like talking to everybody. He is a great guy."
"I'm excited to see Frank, man. He's somebody I got close to and learned a lot from," wide receiver Chester Rogers said. "Just how to attack the game and be a pro each and every day. I cherish those moments, and like I said I'm excited to see him. I wish he was with us, but he's on the other side."
Andrew Luck was incredibly fond of his three seasons with Gore.
"Frank was the best type of teammate that you could ask for," Luck said. "It will be really fun to see him. I won't be rooting for him this week, but it will be fun to see him. He's just one of those personalities and one of those guys that you miss when he's not around.
"I'm sure everybody in this locker room that has played with him at some point probably says, 'Yeah, I miss being around Frank Gore every day,'" Luck continued. "He's got an infectious personality. He's a heck of a football player. I certainly wish him – I always wish him – the best success in whatever he does. He's an all-time great. He really is."
Although Gore runs angry and has no trouble using past doubts — especially with how he left the San Francisco 49ers — to fuel him, he insists there are no hard feelings with how his departure went in Indianapolis.
Early into this past offseason, Colts general manager Chris Ballard and Gore had a mutual understanding: Indy was going younger at the running back position, and Gore was going to given time to find the perfect situation for his career. Accordingly, the Colts now feature a second-year back in Mack, as well as two rookies in Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. Gore, meanwhile, was able to utilize free agency to find a prominent role with his hometown team.
"The GM, (Chris) Ballard, we're very cool. (He's a) good dude, great dude," Gore said. "He wanted to start going his own direction and he was real with me. That's the big thing as a man, as long as he's straight up with me.
"I'll be excited to see all of the guys like 'T' (Assistant Equipment Manager Brian Seabrooks), 'Frog' (Equipment Manager Sean Sullivan), all of the trainers and some of the guys I played with," Gore said about Sunday's game. "It'll be good. We're both 5-5. We both want to win. I'm coming there to try to help my team get a victory."
Gore currently leads the Dolphins in rushing yards (528), even though they had a breakout star at the running back already in Kenyan Drake.
At 35 years old, Gore is essentially an antique for a running back, but has taken such good care of himself that it allows him to continue performing at a high level.
"I am surprised," Rogers said of Gore's longevity. "I said since the time I came in, the fact that he's played this long, is that old and can move like he's a rookie, that just goes to show the type of pro he is. He takes care of his body. I learned that from him too — he takes care of his body a lot, and he puts a lot of time into it."
"He told me he was surprised the way I was playing," Gore said about Ballard when the two spoke after last season. "(It) goes back to my age. I told him as long as I love the game and (am) still having fun and I know I can play and train in the offseason, I'm going to be fine."