When Frank Gore first watched tape of Kenyan Drake last season, he quickly realized that the Dolphins had something special. "I said to myself, 'man, I can see why they traded Jay Ajayi.'"
Now they are teammates, the old pro who just doesn't slow down and the kid with a gear you can't teach, the two of them together hoping to give this offense the type of rushing attack that can mean so much over the course of a 16-game season.
Gore is 35, an incredible physical oddity, doing things on the practice field that defy logic. If he's slowing down, there have been zero indications. He's going to help this offense in a variety of important ways and the expectations are a continuation of what he has always done in his Hall of Fame bound career: break tackles, convert third downs and lead by example
Drake is 24, a supremely confident third-year player who finished last season with a flurry, gaining 444 yards in the final five games to lead all NFL backs during that time span. He is the home run hitter with the you-can't-touch-me moves and his value to this offense, as he proved a year ago, is both as a runner and receiver.
So when the first depth chart of the summer came out, it listed first team running back as Kenyan Drake OR Frank Gore, which at first was greeted with a degree of puzzlement, but after letting it absorb a little, it really made perfect sense.
The Dolphins have two starting caliber running backs. How do you do choose between a young player with the biggest of upsides and a productive veteran who already has more than 14,000 rushing yards on his resume? You don't. You feature them both. Sometimes, you even put them on the field together. You go with the hot hand and you ride it.
When things are working well for this offense, I anticipate Gore touching the ball about 15 times a game and Drake about 20. The OR on that depth chart means the Dolphins are in a very promising position less than a year after trading Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. They have two top-tier alternatives each with the ability to take over a game. What's not to like?
It's been interesting during training camp watching these two players interact, the mutual respect they have gained, the work ethic they have displayed and certainly the selfless manner in which they are approaching this two-for-one special.
"I really think me and him can help this team be successful this year," Gore says. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'll give 110 percent. If I can go out and compete with those young guys during training in the offseason, I should be fine during football season."
Gore's teammates marvel over the way he approaches every practice and the way he attacks the line of scrimmage. "It surprised me how hard he hits the hole," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "When he runs downhill, he puts his foot in the ground and he goes. You see a crease that's a foot wide, barely able to get a helmet through there and somehow he fits his whole body through there and he's off to the next level."
How good is the Frank Gore story? Grew up in South Florida. Went to the University of Miami. Overcame two knee surgeries in college. Silenced so many doubters. Going to Canton someday. Who knows, there might even be a movie there.
"I've been blessed, 14 years at my position and especially the things I've been through in my career, especially coming out of college, being doubted, having two ACL knee surgeries, two shoulders and people saying I won't be here. Well, I am here and I'm still having fun."
Drake, meanwhile, is also enjoying an excellent summer. You see at least one play on the practice field each day where he uses all of his skills, the vision, the moves, the toughness and the flat-out speed. You also see him stick some blocks that make you wonder how much he's gaining by being around Gore.
"This is my third year in the offense so I'm very confident," Drake said. "I'm very comfortable. I'm not complacent. I just want to go out there and continue to make the plays that I know I can. Everything is definitely slowing down for me and that allows me to play faster and play at my capabilities."
As far as him OR Gore starting and what that means, Drake just smiles: "Frank's a great player. You learn things just watching him. It really doesn't matter who starts. What matters is going in there and making plays."
That's the mindset both Gore and Drake have. Make plays. Gain yards. Feed off of one another. Give the Dolphins the type of balance that is imperative if Tannehill is to remain in an upright position.
Gore and Drake. Or is it Drake and Gore? Doesn't really matter. What does matter is that this interesting pairing of the past and future has a real chance of working quite well in the present.