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College Football

Please Enjoy Frank Gore Jr. Throwing Multiple Touchdown Passes

Frank Gore Jr. seen here goofing around with a Southern Miss teammate earlier this season.
Screengrab via YouTube

Life is funny. One day you are a literal goo-goo-ga-ga baby squirming and pouting and struggling through tummy time, and then you’re scooting around your family’s suddenly jarringly pointy living room and freaking everyone out, and then you are in middle school and just totally terrible in every sense, and then at some point after that you are both unemployable and somehow working a job in which you are editing trading cards for a living, and in that capacity learning, over and over, that Frank Gore’s given name is Franklin Delano Gore. Anyway, that is the way in which my life has been funny. The last football set I worked on, when I worked at Topps, was the one in which University of Miami star running back Frank Gore was the 65th pick. Aaron Rodgers was also selected in that draft. So was Cadillac Williams, and Shawne Merriman, and Adam “Pacman” Jones. It’s funny, how time passes and then just keeps on passing, and you get older and older. I am laughing right now!

Anyway, Frank Gore retired at the end of last year, after 16 seasons in the NFL. He just kept on being cool as hell over that stretch and should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible. During that 2020 season, in which he was still pretty good, Gore’s son Franklin Delano Gore, Jr., averaged 5.9 yards per carry as a freshman at Southern Miss. Gore The Elder has retired, and has been training to fight Deron Williams on the undercard of one of those grim Triller pay-per-view celebrity bumfight events. Gore Jr., for his part, led a program that has been among the very worst in FBS all season long to an upset win on Friday night, at quarterback. We’re all dying, I suppose, although it may be that I, as someone who literally edited Frank Gore Jr.’s father’s rookie card, am feeling that more urgently than those of you reading these words. This is actually how I’d hoped to go out, so it’s fine.

Gore Jr. had already thrown three passes this year, completing two for 33 yards, which was fourth on the team in yardage. But all three of the players ahead of Gore on that list were quarterbacks, whereas he had done so in his role as the leading rusher and single most important component of a freewheeling and severely Conference USA-ass offense that has really just not been very good; going into Friday’s game, ESPN had Southern Miss at number six on their Bottom 10 of FBS teams. More important, at least on Friday, was that the all three of those quarterbacks were unavailable, which meant that the Golden Eagles arrived at Louisiana Tech, on the Bulldogs’ Senior Night, not just at 1-9 and without a FBS win, but without so much as one active quarterback.

That the Golden Eagles left at 2-9 and with that elusive FBS win does not and could not possibly matter in the context of this or any other college football season; that Skip Holtz’s Louisiana Tech team is now no longer eligible for the Skor Bar Bowl or the Netflix Presents “Never Have I Ever” Season Two Bowl doesn’t matter either. That all of this was part of a rivalry game that dates back to 1935 is mostly a reminder of just how much college football exists.

But just because it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean it can’t be cool, and Gore made sure that it was. Gore, who played some quarterback in high school but has otherwise been precisely the kind of player that you might expect someone named Frank Gore Jr. to be, was one of three Southern Miss “quarterbacks” who combined for 110 passing yards in the game; the Golden Eagles have gone through four different quarterbacks this year due to various injuries, and came into the game ranked dead last among FBS teams in total offense.

So there was only so much risk involved, really, in Southern Miss coach Will Hall deciding not to list a single quarterback on the depth chart going into the Louisiana Tech game; even a failed attempt at going Full Wildcat was not going to drop the Golden Eagles to 131st in FBS in total offense, because FBS still only has 130 teams in it. As it turned out, it didn’t fail. Gore threw eight passes and rushed four times, running back Dajon Richard completed his only pass for three yards and rushed for a game-high 120, and redshirt freshman defensive back Antavious Willis went 3-for-3 for 32 yards and another touchdown. Gore was not any better prepared than any of them, but he was better. He threw for 75 yards and two touchdowns on those eight attempts and ran for another touchdown, and was the single biggest reason why the Golden Eagles won, 35-19. It was the first time Southern Miss scored more than 19 points against a FBS opponent this year.

Both of Gore’s passing touchdowns were caught by Jason Brownlee, but only the first was more Brownlee’s work than Gore’s. On that one, which put Southern Miss ahead by a touchdown, Gore threw an extremely College Running Back Who Played Quarterback A Little In High School semi-fade that Brownlee won by out-jumping Bulldogs defensive back B.J. Williamson.

Gore’s second touchdown pass, though, was downright quarterback-esque. The technique was objectively Tebovian, but those getting-shoved-from-behind mechanics somehow conspired to deliver a spotless 39-yard dime to Brownlee on a post route for what wound up being the decisive score.

There is no running away from the family resemblance when you share the same name, life pursuit, and uncommonly cubic physiognomy as your dad. That Gore is, like his father, a fanatically hard worker and football obsessive who is shaped like a brutalist public library is something that should help him as a football player; a Sports Illustrated feature on the two from earlier this year, with the delightful headline “Franks And Genes,” reveals that Gore The Elder is dedicated to helping his son get to the next level, right down to texting him advice on his McDonald’s order. (“He don’t have specific foods of what I should eat,” Gore Jr. says, “but he does for what I shouldn’t eat.”)

Whether Frank Gore Jr. will get to play in the NFL is hard to know at this point, and subject to a bunch of things beyond his control and above my diagnostic pay grade; that he just missed a shot to overlap with his father is remarkable in its own right. It probably won’t be as a quarterback, but at the very least it now seems clear that the family’s knack for generating uncanny-looking highlights is a heritable trait.