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Hard Work Really Does Pay Off

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Watching the Miami/Florida State game last weekend was not as enjoyable as I thought it would be. In fact, there were times when the game was downright boring, as both teams were a bit tentative and allowed the defenses to control the pace.

However, one thing that kept my attention, was the play of Miami tailback Frank Gore.

A local Coral Gables product, Gore was one of the most recruited running backs coming out of high school in 2000. That year, he set a Dade County record for rushing yards (2,953), while scoring 34 touchdowns. He could have gone to a number of high profile programs, including Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina and Ole Miss, but decided to stay home and play for the Hurricanes.

Frank Gore
Frank Gore has fought through a ton of adversity to suit up for the Hurricanes this year and could be the key piece to yet another national title run.

As a freshman, Gore rushed for 562 yards on just 62 carries (9.1 ypc) and was next in line to shine in the Miami backfield as Clinton Portis' heir apparent. However, fate stepped in (twice) and tried to destroy what could have been a phenomenal career.

In 2002, Gore tore his right knee ligament in the spring, ending his first year in the spotlight before it every got started. However, Gore's loss was certainly Willis McGahee's gain, as the now Buffalo Bill moved into the starting lineup for the Hurricanes and went on to have a magical season in the backfield for Miami, before heading to the NFL. The thought that McGahee couldn't simply win the starting position is not a knock on McGahee, but more a confirmation of the enormous talent that Gore possessed.

With a blown out knee, Gore could have let it consume him, but instead, he fought through self-doubt and poured everything he had into the rehab process, actually opening the door for a possible return during the 2002 campaign. However, by that time the "McGahee Train" was off and running to the tune of a school-record 1,753 yards and no one was stopping it.

So 2003 was now the launching date for the "Gore Express," right?

Wrong. Gore returned to the field for Miami last year, but after four games and 483 rushing yards, he went down with another torn ACL injury against West Virginia, this one to his left leg.

More than most people could overcome, Gore made it his mission to not only return to the field, but be just as explosive. Knowing what to expect in terms of rehabilitation, Gore poured his heart and soul into his return to the field.

The first practice in full pads this summer came in mid August and Gore certainly wanted to make an impression. Not only did he want to prove he was back and ready to contribute, but that he would give sophomore Tyrone Moss a run for the starting tailback job. In that practice, Gore looked impressive, particularly on a 60-yard TD run, much to the delight of the Hurricane faithful watching. Larry Coker certainly enjoyed it commenting that Gore was "having a lot of fun and playing with a lot of confidence. I see a lot more confidence in his knees now than I did a year ago when he was coming back from one knee injury."

Not only has Gore returned, but he may just be better for it, as he considers himself a much more patient runner now. Sure, he may lack the explosive speed that he once had, but the Seminoles can certainly attest to his elusiveness, power and burst. Against FSU last week, Gore didn't average a gaudy 9.1 yards per carry, but did put forth a yeoman's effort, amassing 89 yards on 18 carries (4.9 ypc) in what was a defensive game throughout. He also had the defining play in overtime, as his 18-yard TD scamper earned the 'Canes the come-from-behind victory.

Will Gore set the world on fire in 2004? Perhaps. Will he have huge games this year? Probably. Could he use a full year (or two) of health to springboard himself into an early first-round selection in the NFL Draft? Without a doubt.

The 5-10, 220-pounder has fought through a ton of adversity to suit up for the 'Canes this year and could be the key piece to yet another national title run.

A true testament to what can happen with a positive attitude and of course, a lot of hard work.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes
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