INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frank Gore never allowed obstacles to get in the way of success.
Age isn’t slowing him down, either.
The running back who overcame one knee injury to regain the starting job at the University of Miami and another to show NFL scouts his pro career couldn’t be derailed, and who outplayed his third-round draft grade now seems to be defying the biggest opponent of all — father time.
“I train with young guys and I feel like if I can keep up with them and beat them, I’m still in pretty good shape,” the Indianapolis Colts’ leading rusher said Wednesday.
Gore’s 2016 season has been one for the history books.
At age 33, he has surpassed six Hall of Famers and one friend to climb to eighth on the league’s career rushing list.
In November, he became the fifth player in league history with more than 12,500 yards rushing and 400 receptions. Last weekend, he cracked the NFL’s top 10 for career scrimmage yards.
He achieved one personal goal in October by ending the Colts’ 55-game streak without a 100-yard runner and added a second last weekend.
And Gore isn’t finished yet.
With two games to go, he is within 109 yards of becoming Indy’s first 1,000-yard runner since Joseph Addai in 2007 — a topic he’d rather wait to discuss after falling 33 yards short last season.
If he makes it, Gore would become the league’s oldest 1,000-yard rusher since John Riggins in 1984 and would join Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders as the only players with at least nine 1,000-yard seasons.
It could happen this weekend at Oakland (11-3) , not far from where he spent his younger workdays.
“If we get it Saturday that would be fitting for me,” said Gore, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and played 10 seasons on that side of the bay. “I wish it were the Niners.”
Gore’s numbers only tell part of the story, though.
He struggled in school and was later diagnosed with dyslexia. His mother, Lizzie, fought her own battle with drug addiction in a neighborhood where drugs were often available.
When he finally made it to college, the injuries hit and when Gore got to the pros he had to be patient enough for the 49ers to rebuild.
He did it by putting his head down, plowing ahead and bowling over anything in his way.
“You can’t say enough good things about him. If we all knew how hard (he worked) and where he came from and the things he has done to be able to get to this point,” said Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who also coached Gore at Miami.
“There were probably a lot of odds stacked up against him but he has gotten here. He is just a special, special guy.”
But two years ago, with the 49ers entering rebuild mode again, they let the franchise’s career rushing leader walk away in free agency — hardly a surprising move in a league where 30-year-old running backs are often regarded as over the hill.
What Gore found in Indianapolis was a team convinced he could still be productive and strong and a team Gore thought could help him earn that elusive Super Bowl ring.
Again, things did not go according to script.
Last season, Andrew Luck missed nine games with injuries and the Colts were left out of the playoffs.
This season, many expected better from Indy even though it was relying on a young, revamped offensive line.
But the Colts (7-7) lost their first two games, spent the rest of the season playing catch-up and are on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention again.
“I know one thing, I’m going to go out this Saturday and try to play my behind off for my teammates,” he said. “Hopefully, that can be our Christmas present.”
As usual, Gore is putting his life lessons to work. He’s going to play football the only way he knows how.
“It’s a kid’s game,” Chudzinski said. “And he is a kid at heart playing a game that he loves and still playing it at a high level, which at that position is amazing.”
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL .