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December 16, 2021

Frank Gore explains his infamous phantom free agent deal with the Eagles in 2015

The story has something to do with Nick Foles, who was traded that offseason before his later Super Bowl heroics

For 16 seasons, Frank Gore was the iron man of NFL running backs and one of the league's most unsung players at a position known for its fast rate of attrition.

Gore sits at third overall on the all-time list of NFL rushing leaders with 16,000 yards, behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton, and would have suited up for another season at 38 years old this year if a team had shown interest in signing him.

Eagles fans have always been a bit salty about Gore — mostly in a humorous way — because he once backed out of a reported free agent signing in Philadelphia in 2015. Gore had just finished his 10th season with the San Francisco 49ers and had rushed for 1,106 yards, so he still had plenty to offer the Eagles.

A strange free agency period ensued as the Eagles, led by Chip Kelly, traded star running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills and shipped Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford. Gore pulled out of his deal in Philadelphia in favor of joining the Indianapolis Colts. Days later, the Eagles signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.

Ever since then, Philadelphia fans have made tongue-in-cheek jokes about how Gore is an all-time Eagles great.

But for the first time this week, Gore actually opened about what led him to rescind his commitment to Philadelphia. During a conversation with Associated Press reporter and radio host Rob Maadi, Gore said he backed out because he wasn't thrilled with the Eagles' free agency maneuvering, compared to the Colts.

From Gore's perspective, the decision actually makes a lot of sense. The Eagles had gone 10-6 in 2014, but missed the playoffs after Nick Foles suffered a season-ending injury and Mark Sanchez couldn't carry them to the postseason. They were still a compelling team with Chip Kelly entering his third year, but the Eagles' core was disappearing that offseason and the energy around the team was a bit odd.

If Jeremy Maclin chose not to return to Philadelphia as the featured receiver in an offense that had just produced his best statistical season, it's hard to blame Gore for feeling as though the flurry of moves that surrounded his signing suddenly made the opportunity look a lot different, and less appealing. The fact that an oblivious Nick Foles spoke with Gore on the phone and they were excited to play together, only for Foles to get traded days later, further creates the sense that the environment in Philly wasn't especially player-friendly under Kelly, even if Gore had a good relationship with the coach. 

Going to the Colts, who had just made an AFC championship game appearance, was kind of a no-brainer for Gore.

Gore is preparing to make his boxing debut this Saturday against former NBA player Deron Williams, who has about a six-inch height advantage and an 8-inch reach advantage on him. The fight will be the undercard for Jake Paul's rematch with former UFC champion Tyron Woodley.

Gore explained that he has always wanted to try boxing, and since he couldn't find his way onto an NFL roster this year, now seemed as good a time as any to make it happen.

“I’ve been around it for so long, I love competing. I want to give it a shot," Gore said ahead of Saturday's match. "I’ll see how this fight goes. If I want to do it again, I know I can. If I want to just do it one time and it’s over after that, it’ll be something I wanted to do and I did.”