Page last updated on Sun Jul 05 22:52:14 EDT 2015
Thu, 31 Jan 2013 01:30 AM EST

Ray Rice has known nothing except winning since he came into the NFL.  For Frank Gore, it took some time.

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

”To battle thru what he’s been through? He’s a warrior,” Rice said 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 like to watch him,” Gore related of his Ravens counterpart. ”When I saw him in college, I knew he was intended to be a pretty good back in the league.”

They both are.

However 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 an alarming string of injuries that might’ve damaged a lesser man. He tore up both knees in school at the University of Miami, prompting him to question if ”football wasn’t for me.” Shaking off the doubts, he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, but required 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 sequence of bad teams, really bad teams. His first 6 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 Miami Hurricanes. Football lines

”It was difficult, real tough,” Gore related. ”I would see some guys – who aren’t here anymore – after we lost, and they’d just be like, ‘Whatever.’ I was not used to that. If we lost one game at Miami, it was like our season was over.”

For Rice, the road has been much smoother.

Since he was drafted in 2008 out of Rutgers, the Ravens have made the playoffs each season, including 3 trips to the ACC championship game. This season, they got over that hump with a major upset at New England.

”I’ve been blessed and fortunate,” Rice said.

Rice is a slasher of a back, darting thru the smallest of openings to break off big gains. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards 4 years in a row and is just as valuable in the passing game, recording more than 60 receptions each of those seasons, as well.  In a November game at San Diego, he provided one of the most memorable plays of 2012. With the Ravens down by 3 and facing 4th-and-29, he hauled in a pass just past the line of scrimmage, swerved away from 3 defenders, broke a tackle that would have got the victory for the Chargers and plunged just outside the 1st-down stripe for a 30-yard gain.

The Baltimore Ravens kicked a tying field goal, and then won the game in overtime.

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