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MIAMI — Frank Gore does not like public speaking. He’d much rather be confronted by an angry linebacker than a friendly crowd.
But he, like the rest of the 2018 inductees to the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, got through his induction speech Thursday at Jungle Island. After all the challenges Gore has overcome, what’s one more?
Recall that Gore, out of Coral Gables High, barely qualified to attend Miami. He still recalls the day he got a proper ACT score as a career highlight. “One of the best times of my life,” he recalled.
He starred at Miami, but scared NFL teams looking for a running back. He tore ACLs in both knees in college and had shoulder and hip issues. After leaving school, he scored what one report called “an alarmingly low number” on the NFL’s Wonderlic intelligence test. He showed up overweight to the league’s scouting combine.
And yet, at age 34, he still going. Most people sized up for the UM Sports Hall of Fame’s camel-colored jacket speak of their post-career plans. Gore, who just signed with his hometown Miami Dolphins, enters his 14th season playing one of the most physically demanding positions in sports.
“Last week I got the key to the city,” added Gore, the NFL’s active leader in rushing yards (14,026) and fifth-leading rusher of all-time. “Now I get to play back in Miami in front of my college fans, my (four) kids, my coaches from Pop Warner and high school. It’s a blessing.”
He’ll go in with his former head coach, Larry Coker, and teammate Devin Hester. They were part of the Miami resurgence of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and a handful of familiar faces came to support: former quarterback Ken Dorsey, tight end Kellen Winslow, assistants Don Soldinger and Rob Chudzinski.
Current head coach Mark Richt was there, and spent a few minutes telling Gore about how well his cousin, UM freshman cornerback Gilbert Frierson, is performing this spring.
Gore saw it first-hand. He stood on the sideline at Hard Rock Stadium, his new office, at Miami’s spring game last week. He said “chills when through my body” when Frierson intercepted a pass and got to wear the turnover chain for the first time.
“To be an early freshman, and to do what he’s doing,” Gore said, “he has a shot to be big-time on that campus.”
He would know. “He was always special,” former UM running backs coach Don Soldinger said of Gore, a five-time Pro Bowler. “He just works out like a maniac.”
Hester, who retired last December, looks like he could play tomorrow.
Coker’s assessment of Hester: “The most explosive player I’ve ever been around in my life.” Said Gore: “One of the most talented guys I’ve ever been around. He could play everything on the field. I think in five or six years he’ll be getting another yellow jacket.”
“It’s an honor to be among all these legends,” said Hester, who will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022. He now lives in Orlando. His high school, Suncoast in Riviera Beach, retired his number last year. “This is a program where it’s tough to make the hall of fame.”
Coker was the coach of Miami’s most recent national championship (2001). Gore was a freshman on that team, and a sophomore on the 2002 team that he believes — as does every Hurricanes fan — should have won another title, if not for a late flag thrown by referee Terry Porter.
“It’s something you never get over,” Coker said, 15 years after that 2003 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State. “You move past it but you don’t get over it. Very disappointed about that for some great players who deserved to win that championship.”
But Coker, 69, isn’t otherwise bitter. He retired from coaching in Jan. 2016 after eight years at UTSA, and still lives in San Antonio. “Not doing a lot,” he said. He keeps tabs on the Hurricanes, and said he’s happy for Richt, “a great coach and a great person.”
The honor? “It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s just amazing.”
Other inductees include recently John Salmons, who played 13 years in the NBA and was one of the standouts of Miami’s 1999-2000 Sweet 16 team, Yonder Alonso (baseball), Britney Butcher (soccer), Chanivia Broussard (basketball), Dominique Darden (track) and Tina Miller (golf).