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American Football Make the most of the NFL’s living legends

FRANK GORE goes into the Bills’ week-12 match-up against the Denver Broncos just 45 yards short of his childhood hero Barry Sanders for third place all time in career rushing yards. 

Ever since Gore was picked in the third round of the 2005 draft, the Miami Hurricane draftee has been one of the most consistent performers in the league. 

Gore was part of one of the first draft classes that then San Francisco 49ers vice-president of personnel Scot McCloughan helped to put together. McCloughan went on to scout players such as Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman for the 49ers and the Legion of Boom in Seattle.

In 2017 McCloughan told the story of how he had admired Gore from early in his college career.

“As an area scout you pay attention to that stuff, especially down in the south-east region, because there’s so many players, so many athletes. 

“But just to see how he handles the situation — and [he] just dominated.

“So, in the back of my mind is: ‘He’s a freshman. We can’t touch him. He’s got three more years at least before you can touch him but he [is] just a football player through and through’.”

Gore had eight thousand-yard seasons in San Francisco, then spent seasons in Indianapolis and Miami before arriving in Buffalo. 

Among his other records, the 36-year-old holds the NFL record with 14 straight seasons of 600-plus rushing yards, has at least five touchdowns in 11 consecutive seasons and, along with Walter Peyton, is the only player in NFL history with more than 14,000 rushing yards and 3,500 receiving yards. 

The star is quick to heap the praise for his outstanding career on others though, saying: “It comes from hard work and love of the game, and I want to thank all the O-linemen, full-backs, receivers and coaches who helped me get it. I just want to keep playing ball.”

The Baltimore Ravens have a player who is probably just as talented as Gore yet almost completely unheralded — the offensive line gets so little love in the league but all of the hate when things go wrong. 

Another third-round pick, this time in 2007, guard Marshal Yanda is playing his 13th season in Baltimore. 

The Ravens are 8-2 and have a second-year quarter-back in Lamar Jackson, who is playing at an MVP level — he can’t do that without protection from his offensive line. 

Seven-time Pro Bowler Yanda allowed a sack earlier this season for the first time since 2015.

Jackson, when asked recently about the veteran lineman, said: “It starts with the line. I need my linemen to love me. Those guys protect me. 

“I’d rather them not hate me, you know? [Or] you’d run around and get sacked all the time and stuff like that. But it starts with him, I feel. He’s the OG, the GOAT, a future Hall of Famer.”

While stats and awards are in short supply for offensive linemen, it is clear that Yanda is one of the legends in the league and NFL history as he is one of only 17 players to be voted to seven Pro Bowls and one of just five of those to have won a Super Bowl.

He is appreciated by his opposition too. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins faces Yanda twice a year. He said: “When I tell my son or daughter about football [one day], I’ll tell them he was one of the best guards I went up against in the league. 

“He’s got nastiness, he’s physical and he has finesse. He’s strong, but if you try to beat him with a little finesse, he can handle that too, because he’s got good feet. He’s got the whole package.”

Close to retiring through injury last season, Yanda now seems happy to continue as long as his body will let him.

“My mind is still … I love to play, I love to compete, I love to wake up on Sunday morning ready to get after somebody’s you-know-what,” Yanda said. 

“That fire is still there. But I also understand that body is very important as well.”

The San Francisco 49ers played against old foe Larry Fitzgerald for the 32nd and final time this past Sunday. Fitzgerald has more catches (177), yards (2,344) and touchdowns (18) against the 49ers than any player in NFL history. 

His 11 100-yard games against the 49ers match Jerry Rice [against the Falcons] for the most by any player against any team.

It was rumoured that Fitzgerald may leave Arizona this past off-season and finish his career with a team like New England so that he might sign off with a Super Bowl trophy but, the person that he is, Fitz decided to stay and help rookie quarter-back Kyler Murray find his feet with the team and help young receivers such as Christian Kirk develop. 

When asked about the dynamic between Fitzgerald and Kirk, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said: “We wanted them to grow together and be around Fitz and see how it’s supposed to be done.

“And you can tell [with Kirk], having watched Fitz and just the way he carries himself, the way he treats people, the way he treats people around the building, he’s learned a lot from Fitz already.”

Fitzgerald was selected third overall in the 2004 draft, right behind Eli Manning and former guard Robert Gallery, and has played his entire career in Arizona. 

Despite playing with a conveyor of 20 different quarter-backs in his career, Fitz is second only to the great Jerry Rice in receiving yards and receptions in his career.

He is one of the best post-season performers in NFL history: Fitzgerald has 57 receptions for 942 yards and 10 TDs in just nine post-season contests.

He is the only player in NFL history to average at least 100-plus receiving yards and a TD in the post-season. 

This includes one of the best play-offs of any player in NFL history during the Cardinals’ run to Super Bowl XLIII in 2008, when he shattered the NFL single post-season record for receptions (30), receiving yards (546) and receiving TDs (seven).

The Cardinals would go on to lose a thrilling Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Look out for these legends and others in week 12 as Gore and the Bills take on the Broncos, Yanda takes a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Fitzgerald gets a well earned rest as the Cardinals are on a bye week.

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