Colts quarterback Andrew Luck crouches behind center Khaled Holmes, barking out some last-second signals. The ball is snapped, and Luck turns and gives the ball to running back Frank Gore. The back starts off on a stretch play to the right, keeping his low center of gravity as he runs. He sees a running lane open up and plants his foot, quickly bursting through the hole and then turning on the speed for a first down and then some - after which a loud cheer erupts from the stands for the veteran running back.
That was a play we saw on Tuesday at training camp, but the Colts are hoping it's one we see for the next several months as well. This is Frank Gore: the veteran running back looking to win a Super Bowl. This is Frank Gore: the (hopeful) answer to the Colts' running back woes. This is Frank Gore: the running back who, despite being 32 years of age, is looking very good in camp. Though it's been just three days of training camp, Gore is turning heads and is really impressing early on with the Colts.
"He looks great, head coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. "You guys are watching the same stuff I'm watching. He looks great."
"Frank is running the ball like he is 22 (years old)," cornerback Greg Toler marveled. "I always tell him I don't know how you play at such a high level for so long but I am always picking his brain as well. He is doing everything we expect him to do."
"So far so good," tight end Dwayne Allen said on how Gore and fellow newcomer Andre Johnson are fitting in. "Andre definitely surprised some guys with what he has left in the tank and Frank is another one who can just flat out run the ball."
The Colts have had just one day in shells and have yet to be in full pads or have live drills, so we haven't been able to get a good gauge of the run game. Instead, Gore has had to impress in other areas: his cuts. His vision. His quickness. His athleticism. Looking at him on the field, you'd never be able to guess he was 32 years old - and that's exactly how the Colts want it.
"When everybody else is in the offseason traveling to the Bahamas or Aruba and going here and going there and getting on boats and doing things like that, that guy is down in Miami grinding," Pagano said of Gore. "He takes great care of his body. You go down to the University of Miami and probably go into the weight room during the offseason during those six weeks off, and you'll probably see him in their working out and running. He's always running. First day he got here I had to take him off the bike so that we could go sit down and visit. He's a grinder, but he's got great balance. He's got great vision. He makes great decisions, great reads and he's very decisive. When he puts a foot in the ground he gets north and south and he can jump cut and do all those kinds of things. It doesn't matter how big that hole is, he's going to get positive yards."
Those abilities have allowed him to stay in the NFL for quite a while, and not just staying in the league but excelling as well, having been one of the best running backs of the past decade. Over ten seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Gore played in 133 games and rushed for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns rushing (averaging 4.5 yards per carry), also catching 42 passes for 2,883 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has made five Pro Bowl appearances, and perhaps most impressive of all, he has topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark in eight of ten seasons.
If you ask Chuck Pagano, Gore's impact on the entire offense shouldn't be overlooked.
"We always talk about protecting No. 12 and protecting the quarterback and trying to affect the opponents quarterback," he said. "So anytime you have a really good running game then it's another way to protect the quarterback. Hand the ball off and you're getting four or five yards a clip, you average 4.5 at the end of the year, you're doing pretty good. So that's always the goal and that's our mindset and that's something obviously that we have to develop in this camp."
Consider, for a minute, these numbers: in Andrew Luck's three years with the team they have not had a running back top 1,000 yards (or even 850), and in his 54 games with the Colts (including playoffs), the team has had a running back top 100 yards in a game one time. During that same time span, Gore has three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons and 12 100+ yard rushing games. And to top it off: he hasn't missed a single game during the past three years, either. It is clear that he should be a huge upgrade at the running back position for the Colts. And with Gore added to the mix, this offense looks to be even more dangerous as the team has their sights set on winning the Super Bowl - the very thing that drew Gore to the Colts in the first place.
"I'm here. I'm happy," Gore said. "I think we have a great chance as long as we just keep working and are taking small steps in camp and keep learning and just be as one. I think we have a great chance to have a successful season."
And as if there were any doubt about it, Gore said that, "I'm here. I'm a Colt. I'm here."
With Gore here and a Colt, he's already impressing despite just three days of training camp. The fans love him and so do his coaches and teammates, and if the first three days of camp are any indication, Gore could be in for a very nice year in an offense that could be great.