Gore & Rice: Contrasting styles, mutual respect

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - One guy is a bruiser of a back, just as comfortable running through defenders as around them.

The other is more of a slasher, darting this way and that to make people miss, requiring only the slightest opening to bust off a big gain.

They may be different in style _ Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens _ but the featured runners at this Super Bowl have at least one thing in common.

Plenty of respect for the other guy.

“He’s like a bull,” Rice said Monday evening, shortly after the Baltimore Ravens arrived in the Big Easy. “If you watch Frank Gore, he doesn’t take the hits. He actually delivers them because of his low center of gravity.”

Gore was just as effusive with the praise when talking about his counterpart.

“He does it all. I love to watch him,” Gore said. “He doesn’t have to hesitate to make moves, to make people miss. He can cut and go, cut and go. If you can cut and go, you can be pretty good in this league.”

They sure took different paths to get here.

The 29-year-old Gore has endured plenty of defeats, personal heartache (losing his mother to kidney failure) and a startling string of injuries that might have broken a lesser person. 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.

“To battle through what he’s been through? He’s a warrior,” Rice said. “Hats off to my man Frank.”

Gore started his pro career with a series of bad teams. Really bad teams. During his first six years in the league, the 49ers failed to post a winning record _ which was especially galling for someone who was brought up on a win-or-bust mentality 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, 49ers fullback Bruce Miller, has noticed the determination in Gore’s eyes as the team prepares to face the 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.

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