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Coker wants Gore to return

12/21/2004 - Miami Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Frank Gore knows that putting up big
numbers in 2005 would greatly enhance his value to NFL teams,
result in a higher draft pick and perhaps add many millions to his
bank account.

He also knows that one misstep can take the chance at those
riches away.

The Miami tailback has already bucked the odds once, by
overcoming major ligament damage to both of his knees; shredding
the right one cost him all of the 2002 season, then blowing out the
left one against West Virginia forced him out of the last eight
games in 2003.

Now comes the toughest decision Gore has ever weighed: Does he
return to Miami next season stronger, healthier and in a great
position to impress NFL scouts, or does he roll the dice by taking
whatever money comes his way now and forgo his final season of
college eligibility?

"People always tell me that you can't think about it like
that," said Gore, who has 865 yards this season. "If I was
thinking about getting hurt, I probably would have never played
football again after the first injury. You can't have that on your
mind."

Gore says he will wait until after Miami's Peach Bowl matchup on
New Year's Eve against Florida to make up his mind. Miami coach
Larry Coker is lobbying for a return.

"From what I know from professional people, Frank probably is
not a high draft choice right now," Coker said. "Another year
with Frank being healthier would be a tremendous benefit to him."

Doctors have told Gore that he likely needed two full years to
completely recover from the second injury, and he's been slowed by
knee pain on a few occasions this season. He ran for only 8 yards
in a September victory at Houston, plus managed a combined 73 in
the Hurricanes' losses to North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

But he also had flashes of brilliance. He rushed for 195 yards
in Miami's win at Virginia, and 124 yards in a victory at Georgia
Tech.

"He's right up there with Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, all
the great backs we've had here," offensive lineman Chris Myers
said. "I hope he comes back. He'll have an amazing offensive line
here next season. But he'll be in the NFL one day either way and
he's got to do what's best for him."

There are other extenuating circumstances surrounding Gore's
decision.

Gore's mother has suffered from kidney disease for much of the
last decade, and the family has limited financial resources. Plus,
he's the father of a 2-year-old son and wants to ensure that he can
provide for his child's future.

He's on track to graduate in May -- something that people close
to Gore consider his greatest achievement, especially considering
he read at a third-grade level when he entered high school.

"I'm going to come home after the bowl game and figure it
out," Gore said. "I haven't been checking up on it. I know that
if I decide to come out, I'll have to work hard to impress the
scouts in the combine."

His freshman season certainly was impressive; Gore averaged 9.1
yards a carry, helping Miami win the national championship.

Gore would have been the starter in 2002, the year McGahee
gained a school-record 1,753 yards and led the Hurricanes back to
the national title game. Instead, Gore spent the year rehabbing,
fighting off depression and wondering if his NFL dreams would come
true -- then endured all that again last year.

While acknowledging that there are sure to be plenty of great
running backs in this year's draft crop, Gore doesn't want having
the dream dashed for good -- perhaps indicating which way he's
leaning.

"I don't know what I'll do," Gore said. "I'll do what I feel
is best for me, my family, and my mom."