49ers’ Gore kept hope through all the adversity

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Ray Rice has known nothing but winning since he came into the NFL.

For Frank Gore, it took a while.

Two running backs with contrasting styles and story lines will be on display at this Super Bowl, but they have one thing in common _ plenty of respect for each other.

“To battle through what he’s been through? He’s a warrior,” Rice said Monday evening, shortly after the Baltimore Ravens arrived in the Big Easy. “Hats off to my man Frank.”

Gore, the leading rusher for the San Francisco 49ers, also was generous with the praise.

“He does it all. I love to watch him,” Gore said of his Ravens counterpart. “When I saw him in college, I knew he was going to be a pretty good back in the league.”

They both are.

But, boy, they sure took different paths to get here.

The 29-year-old Gore has endured plenty of losses, personal heartache (losing his mother to kidney failure) and a startling string of injuries that might’ve broken a lesser man. He tore up both knees in college at the University of Miami, prompting him to wonder if “football wasn’t for me.” Shaking off the doubts, he was drafted by the 49ers, but needed major surgery on both shoulders after his rookie campaign. Later, he lost part of another season to a hip injury.

Even harder to take, Gore played on a series of bad teams. Really bad teams. His first six years in the league, the 49ers failed to post a winning record _ which was especially hard for him to take, considering he had known nothing but winning with the Hurricanes.

“It was tough, real tough,” Gore said. “I would see some guys _ who are not here anymore _ after we lost, and they would just be like, `Whatever.’ I was not used to that. If we lost one game at Miami, it was like our season was over.”

One of his teammates, fullback Bruce Miller, has noticed the determination in Gore’s eyes as the team prepares to face the Baltimore Ravens in the title game Sunday.

“It means a lot to him,” Miller said. “In meetings and at practice, you can see how intense and focused he is. He’s worked hard for it.”

For Rice, the road has been much smoother.

Since he was drafted in 2008 out of Rutgers, the Ravens have made the playoffs every season, including three trips to the ACC championship game. This season, they got over that hump with a major upset at New England.

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