The man standing in front of Adam Gaza’s office late on the evening of Wednesday in October looks like a figure from the nursery rhyme, crouched and almost square. In short, he is an employer, and his presence on this door shows how serious he is about his overall goal.
The New York jets of 2020 are currently and probably forever windless, and their history gives the slightest indication of a system malfunction. Look, the head coach, he’s sitting at his desk trying to think of something… something, really… when a visitor arrives. It’s almost 9 pm, a few hours after the last sessions of the day and the time all players are usually long gone.
At the door crane Geys looks at Frank Gore.
For 16 seasons in the NFL and 37 years on the planet, Frank Gore has been running. He ranks third in the history of the league, a sporting and actuarial miracle that received most of his 15,687 yards after contact, a disproportionate number of them running at 5 yards when conditions dictated 2, and all this after two ACL breaks he suffered at the University of Miami. He’s been here so long his son Frank Jr. is in the South Miss freshman year. His style of racing, a form of lethargy, is absolutely dependent on its usefulness; it has also led to a career that makes no sense in our modern age: remarkably extensive and criminally underestimated. Year after year he played the same ruthless game and threw his body through piles of much larger people as bait at the end of a snake.
A few hours after his teammates left the house, he waits for an invitation to the Gaza office.
Frank, what’s wrong? Ask Gas.
Mr. Mount was wondering about lightning strikes, where they came from and how to stop them. But now he’s rooted in the door and looking over his shoulder in the hall. He eagerly approaches someone who’s out of Gaza’s sight and says: Come on, man. Don’t be afraid to come here.
Slowly, upside down and as a child follows his father to the director’s office, a newcomer appears on the sidewalk and walks backwards, La’Mikal Perin.
That night, I’m watching the third draw, says Gore Gaz, and I brought him here because I want him to see me learn.
From the point of view of Gaza, it seems that Perin prefers to stay in the auditorium so that relevant information relating to lightning can be passed from hand to hand. The problem, however, is that Gore sees something in Peryn, something that someone else once saw, and Frank Gore’s experience – as a coach or player, whether or not undefeated in a team – requires a full dive.
Frank Gore loves football more than anyone I know, says Gaze. Things like that don’t happen anymore, so gamers better go home and play Xbox. It’s hard here, but the kids will see Wednesday’s Hall of Fame for a team whose record looks like… …right now.
Two weeks ago, after a 40-minute phone call, Gore reported that Antonio Brown was with Tampa Bay – they’re not joking, he said – and twice tried to call Jet weight-training coach Justus Gatlin to answer a question about how his 37-year-old body felt on Monday compared to 10 years ago. (Gatlin, who never answered…) It must be a family night, Frank said… …was subpoenaed to testify that Gore did not adhere to the age limits of his weekly training).
I try not to think about age, and I don’t let anyone judge me, Gore says. I’ve been jogging around boot camp this year, and some kids are like that: How old are you, buddy? I can see if I can or not, and I still can. You can’t get inside my head.
Fault! The file name is not specified. It’s been tough here, says jet coach Adam Geys, but the young boys are watching the Hall of Fame on Wednesday for a team with a record… seems to be right now. Jim McIsaac/Getty Pictures
After 16 years – in San Francisco and Indianapolis, Miami and Buffalo and now with the Jets – a solid image of Mount Age will not be that of a man overtaking defensive backs or making baroque moves on the field. He will be remembered for obeying the darkest tides of the game, for looking for the tiniest wrinkles in defense, and for coming out of chaos to serve his defensive back with a face full of knee bends. He’s just looking for a place to put it, says Colt’s captain and former teammate, Anthony Castonzo. When I think of his career, my vision is a cloud of bodies, and this guy comes out the other side.
Gore made his living by pulling his thrust through the A-space, and he pierced it so safely that he might as well hold a flashlight in his hand. Power – the simplest and most cruel game in football – is sometimes called the game of God, and a team runs for dominance. The rearguard leads and the rearguard shoots to get through the A-section – a hole just to the left or right of the middle. This game is about demoralization and erosion, and Gore – a ball pressed against his belly with both hands – got him talking as if he was no better than anyone else in history. He has been leading this game for 16 years with one overpowering goal: finding the smallest space between groups of men and crossing it. And for 16 years, the answer to every question and the solution to every problem has been to lead the power through the A-gap. According to Frank, a 49-year-old elder. His teammate, Joe Staley, can make any situation better by adding strength. What if the passing match doesn’t work? She needs more strength. What if the street show doesn’t work? She needs more strength. What if the Force doesn’t work? She needs more strength.
No one in history has ever loved A more than Frank, Castonzo says. Absolutely no one.
An offensive attack from behind is the easiest task for the authorities. The game goes so fast that there is no reason to use much more than a defensive shield in a split second and see what happens. A dead room, Staley says. Unless it’s Frank. In Frank’s case, the Background Tackle has to work in a way that turns the tusks, because once Gore has pierced the first pile of bodies, he likes to retreat to the side of the background, like an eel diving into the reef, and he prefers not to be confronted with an unlocked defensive end.
Frank always told me: Lock that man up, because I’m going back inside, Staley said. He’s a polymer when it comes to X and O and the direction the room has to go. He can predict what the linebacker will do before the ball is broken. All open positions are available to Frank.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Gore stays in the NFL as long as the team has him, let’s say, from those who know him. Frank is the kind of man who does what he loves as long as he can and enjoys it, says former teammate Vernon Davis. AP Photo/Tony Avelar
Gore doesn’t just play soccer, he lives there. Even with the almost complete dismantling of the NFL grids, his legacy remains in the rubble and in the training rooms and locker rooms where he hasn’t set foot in years. At the age of three, Gore and the Colts were friends with guard Jack Mewhort, and Castonzo estimates that Gore and Mewhort are 90% compatible. You have to hold him tight. Pulling hard – because it’s Gore, and because it’s the thin cogs of the game – has a clear function: When the housing is fixed, the bracket can be slid directly into the hole and start to slide through these small folds.
In each of the three seasons since the departure of Gore from Indianapolis, when the quarterback of the Colts – Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brisset, Philip Rivers – calls the power in the Pit, Castonzo and Center look at Ryan Kelly with an air of caution and enjoy a moment of frivolity in a grueling match.
Clench your teeth, speak up. They need to be removed.
When he talks about the long, loud train phenomenon, Castonzo drives somewhere in Indianapolis – the background noise says he’s driving something big – and his smile pierces the scream of the big tyres on the asphalt. You have to slow down, he talks twice, and I can practically hear his head shake when he smiles.
GORE’s PERSONALITY DIRECTORY is a perfect match for his favourite game: modest, usually serious, always direct. Jim Harbo called Gore a mystical man when he trained him in San Francisco, and the optimism follows Gore like a bouquet of balloons on his birthday. It is rare to find a star so universally respected by his teammates and coaches.
Every time our media guy comes up to me and says I have a request, my first reaction: Oh, no, no, no, Castonzo said. We Olinemen don’t like to talk. But if he talks: Someone’s reporting Frank, I say: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d like to talk about Frank. Everybody loves Frank.
Of course, Castonzo has a lot of stories about Gore. I think it’s a collection, he says. In one of them, Castonzo – 0 and 307 pounds for 5-9 and 216 Gore – describes the first time he entered the defensive with a defensive end, with his hands on his sides with a chicken wing and the feeling that Gore was walking under his armpit. I’ve gotten used to it, he says. I don’t think he even noticed.
In another case, after Gore left the Colts for the Dolphins after the 2017 season, the Colts recruited future all-pro guard Quenton Nelson as No. 6 in the 2018 draft. Shortly after the election announcement, Castonzo got a call from Gore. So I’m out, and now they’re taking a guy like that? Gore asked, probably waiting for all the power he can use with the best security executives in the NFL.
Castonzo says he blamed us in a funny way, but because it was Frank, he was really pissed off that he couldn’t play with Quenton.
At that time, in 2009, Gaze was a junior assistant at the 49th Congress of the German Federal Armed Forces and worked with quarterbacks when his friendship with Gore led him to make a bold pledge: If he ever got a head coach position in the NFL, Gore would be on the list. This has happened twice, first in Miami and now in New York. He never made anyone feel like he was above him, even though he was a great player, Gaze says. There was always something humiliating about the way he was. From the boys in the team to the coaches, from the other teammates to the coaches, he never respected anyone.
The mountain lives in the comfort of routine and submits to its own rule of law. Every morning at 6:30 am he drives his car to the jets for all the other players. He enters the field 30 minutes before training, for any other player, to perform a series of well-considered exercises that Staley calls a real workout, not a warm-up. Sometimes he avoids meetings on the attack line just to see what you see this week.
He takes care of his body as his son explains it best: I look at what he orders when we go to a fancy restaurant, Frank Jr. says: Are you gonna eat that in this restaurant? Harbo once said: Most boys are hungry as if they missed breakfast, but it doesn’t matter because they know lunch is coming. Frank’s starving. He plays like he’ll never eat again. And Staley says he’s the Hall of Fame coming back soon, and every day he feels like he’s getting a cut.
Prior to this season, Gore sat down with five children to find out what the crowd thought of his choice to keep playing. With the beginning of Frank Jr.’s career at university, the idea that sabbaticals were free attracted his only attention. Young people love having their parents around, Frank Sr. says, but if the team wants you… His voice must not be heard. There is no need to specify. He continues to say that the decision to return was not easy, although none of his friends believe that.
His motivation is ridiculous, says Frank Jr. For 37 years? You’re not gonna believe this. His voice rises and he starts laughing. He’s just getting started. You should have seen him jump. You can’t believe how much he can do in such a small space.
Fault! The file name is not specified. I hope he’s still here when I get there, said Gore’s son Frank Jr. in his freshman year. I think it’s possible because I see what the outside world doesn’t see, so nothing will surprise me. A picture of Brandon Wade.
Frank Jr. is the top driver of the Golden Eagle – 358 yards, 5 yards for carry, but he and his teammates are among the few players who can qualify for a scary season like Frank Jr.’s in New York. In six games the southern woman is in third place in the lineup of the head coach, but her 1-5 record gives Frank Jr. at least something to compete against his father with an 8-0 victory. I keep telling him, Frank Jr. says it and he laughs.
No one knows when Gore’s career will end, not even Gore, but those who do know him assume it will end when the collective wisdom of the 32 NFL teams decides it will, not before. He should go, says 49-year-old Vernon Davis. Frank is the kind of man who does what he loves as long as he can and enjoys.
Now it feels a bit like the sun is setting, his playing time is getting shorter and the Jets are preparing Perin for his return in the second half of the season. Gore is still productive and runs the Jets, but the regular rehearsals of the 37-year-old in a windless team seem to be a nostalgic exercise.
If he wants to keep playing, and he does, why doesn’t he? Frank Jr. says one thing about my dad: no weekends. So I hope he’s still here when I get there. I think it’s possible because I see what the outside world doesn’t see, so nothing will surprise me.
(After Frank Jr. David Cohen, the director of South Mississippi’s Public Affairs, gave me the phone, I learned that Frank Jr. spent all our time on the phone doing leg exercises in a job near South Mississippi Stadium – bouncing cups, bowling exercises without bowling. He never stopped moving, Cohen says, and I don’t think he ever did. It’s like looking at his father’s work ethic in the mind of an 18-year-old.)
The idea sounds ridiculous, but for a few conversations it’s left enough behind to deserve a recording: Is Frank Gore comfortable with the idea of staying long enough to play with his son in the NFL? In the current NFL, there has never been a father-son combination as a player – neither kickers nor multi-generation kolkwites – and the idea that this will only happen with a step back (average career length: 2.66 years) in his fifth decade seems far-fetched, even for Mountain.
I’ve heard this conversation, Gaze says, but frankly, I can’t process it. I can’t imagine how that’s possible. That would be great, wouldn’t it?
Gore’s son has had enough. Dad refuses and says I’m just trying to help these kids win. To achieve this, he remains a structured and optimistic person, determined to train hard on Wednesdays and stay up late. He drags a rookie to places he doesn’t want to go and orders the healthiest things in America’s best restaurants. He continues his lonely and quixotic quest for the smallest wrinkles of defense, and he still believes that the answer to most questions is more power.
And when is everything else going to fail?
Put them on. They need to be removed.
Words to live with.