The reactions have flooded across San Francisco 49ers Twitter for Frank Gore — with reporters, fans and past teammates honoring the five-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the All-Decade team for 2010.
Gore told Heidi Watney and Bovada on Saturday, April 3 that he plans on retiring — capping an illustrious 16 seasons in the league and becoming the NFL’s all-time third-leading rusher.
However, 69.2% of his 16,000 career rushing yards and 79% of his 81 career rushing touchdowns came in a 49ers uniform. He also got the chance to experience his first Super Bowl in the 2013 season as a 49er.
While former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith posted his reaction on his Instagram page by calling Gore “the greatest teammate and competitor,” there was one more notable 49ers legend who also shared his praise of the man who he played his entire NFL career with.
ALL the latest 49ers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on 49ers newsletter here!
‘An Honor in All Forms’
Legendary 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who spent 2007 to 2014 as Gore’s 49er teammate, also took to social media to honor Gore — with his post surfacing on Sunday.
“Frank Gore!!! There are many words I could say to describe the type of athlete and teammate you were at the 49ers I’ll keep it simple though. It was an honor in all forms. You embodied the game! All The Best!” Willis posted on his Twitter account, while also hash tagging Gore’s nickname “the inconvenient truth” and his jersey number.
Willis arrived to S.F two years after Gore was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. From there, both men helped reconstruct an organization that was enduring some down years.
Gore & Willis Together
Before the Ole Miss standout Willis came to the Bay Area, the 49ers endured back-to-back sub. 500 seasons at 7-9 in ’06 and 4-12 in ’05.
To go back even further, the 49ers had not seen the playoffs since the 2002 season when Gore was a freshman at the University of Miami and Willis was still attending high school in Bruceton, Tennessee.
Things were rough sailing in the Bay early on when Gore and Willis officially became teammates in 2007. Their season together was a 5-11 campaign. Then two seasons later, the head coach who helped draft Willis Mike Nolan was fired during the season and replaced by Mike Singletary. The Hall of Fame linebacker Singletary, though, didn’t finish out the 2010 season as interim Jim Tomsula took over for the final game of the season.
But then, the moment Jim Harbaugh came over to the 49ers via Stanford, Gore and Willis helped establish themselves as cornerstones for the 49ers’ turnaround.
Harbaugh took the 49ers to three straight conference title games with Gore leading the ground attack and Willis patrolling the middle of the defense from 2011 to 2013. During that span, here was what Gore and Willis produced together:
Gore: Three straight 1,000-yard seasons to lead the 49ers plus combining for 25 rushing touchdowns (9 in the 2013 season) and producing three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances during that span…which were his last nods to the NFL’s all-star gala.
Willis: Also made the Pro Bowl from 2011 to 2013 and earned All-Pro First Team recognition in ’11 and ’12.
Willis’ last season in the NFL happened to be Gore’s final campaign in a 49ers uniform. In their last game together on October 13, 2014, Willis finished out with three tackles before getting placed on injured reserve. Gore was held to 38 yards on 16 carries but the 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams 31-17.