Dolphins RB Drake was in sixth grade when Gore entered the NFL
It took the three long, rocky years, but the Miami Dolphins believe they finally the right mentor for Kenyan Drake in Frank Gore.
The ironic part is, Drake might no longer need one.
Based on what Drake told reporters Tuesday, as Week 2 of Dolphins OTAs got under way, he seems to have figured out things pretty well on his own.
"I've learned that you definitely can't take any week for granted," said Drake, the speedy running back who is in line to get the most carries of his football life in 2018. "It's a one-game season every week. On any given Sunday. You have to be where your feet are. From waking up one morning and you realize you just traded your starting running back [Jay Ajayi] and now you're going to get a lot more carries. To the next person in front of you [Damien Williams] is injured for the rest of the season. And so now you definitely have to have a lot more of the bulk.
"So an in my rookie year it was a big learning experience," Drake continued. "Because at the end of the day I just wasn't mentally prepared to handle the work load. As if I was out there being an every-day starter. Which I take personally. Because I'm supposed to put myself in the position to help this team win games. And I came up short my rookie year. And as the second year went on I got a lot more special teams opportunities and that gave me a lot more opportunities. Once I got the ball in my hand it was just natural again."
Was it ever.
Drake was the league's leading rusher over the season's last five weeks, going for 444 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per pop.
But he sheepishly admitted Tuesday that this often-repeated stat is a bit misleading. Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley, the league's top two gainers in 2017, had one combined carry in Week 17, as their respective teams were assured playoff spots and elected to protect their best players.
Still, Drake's work that final month speaks for itself — and helped validate the Dolphins' decision to trade Ajayi midway through yet another tumultuous season. Ajayi and Adam Gase were just a bad fit.
Expect none of that drama with Gore, who has one-tenth of Ajayi's ego despite building 10 times the resume.
Assuming he stays healthy, Gore should pass Curtis Martin for fourth on the league's all-time rushing list by Week 3. Gore, who turned 35 earlier this month, has 14,026 career rushing yards, just 75 fewer than Martin.
Drake on Thursday spoke in near-reverential terms about his new teammate, who broke into the league when Drake was just a grade-schooler.
"He works out like he's a first-year, second-year guy," Drake said. "Comes in with that same attitude. I feel like if I could have just half the success that he's had, that would be a win in my book. Because he's definitely the epitome of longevity in this league."
Gore is not here as a glorified coach, however. The Dolphins believe he can still play at a high level, and expect him to. But sure, they also hope he can be an example for Drake in a way that Ajyai and Arian Foster never were.
"I'm a fun-loving type of person," Drake said. "I love this game of football. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world, other than down here playing football. And I love to win. That's why I went to Alabama. Because I love to win. And I love to be a competitor. Gase brought me here because he knows I'm a competitor. And he knows at the end of the day I have ability to make big plays in big games. But once I leave this field. I love the game. But I'm a human being at the end of the [day]."