Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald are two players that won’t get the proper respect each deserve until they hang up the cleats.
You can realistically make a case for either player being the most underrated player of all-time. Both are all-time great players whose careers in a sense, mirror each other’s.
This past Sunday, both players set new career milestones, and in both instances, both came in losses.
Gore became the fourth player in NFL history to surpass 15,000 yards. The three players ahead of him are Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269). He needed 88-yards entering the game and finished with 109, including a 41-yard rush up the gut to surpass 15,000.
His Bills lost a 13-10 nail biter against divisional foe and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Later that day, Fitzgerald passed tight end Tony Gonzalez for second most receptions in league history. Fitzgerald now has 1,326 career catches and trails arguably the greatest receiver of all time, Jerry Rice who has 1,549 and was in attendance on Sunday. Fitzgerald needed five catches and finished with just that for 47 yards.
Fitzgerald and his Cardinals lost 27-10 to Seattle, dropping them to 0-3-1.
Despite the losses, the two continued to quietly ascend the record books and all-time ranks.
Both players are 36-years old and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Fitzgerald is in his 16th NFL season while Gore is playing in his 15th.
For Gore, this is his fourth different team since being drafted in the third round (65th overall) in the 2005 draft by San Francisco. Gore spent the first 10 years of his career in the Bay Area, where he helped lead the 49ers to three-consecutive NFC Championship games, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2012, where his team would fall to the Baltimore Ravens. Before Gore landed in Buffalo, he was with the Colts for three years and then made a stop in Miami, where he also went to college. In all 14 seasons, Gore has led his team in rushing.
This Sunday, Gore will start his 200th career game, which also puts him in rare air as he will be the second running back ever to reach that plateau. The other is Emmitt Smith. Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in nine seasons and 900 yards twice.
Fitzgerald has spent all 16 seasons in the desert, which isn’t all that common in pro sports these days. He was drafted third overall in 2004 out of Pittsburgh, where he came off finishing second in the Heisman voting. Fitzgerald helped lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl appearance in 2008, where he and his team would fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in one of the more memorable games of the past 15 years.
In his 15 full seasons, Fitzgerald has caught at least 100 passes five different times and surpassed 1,000 yards receiving nine times. He also led the league in receptions twice. Not only does he have the second-most receptions all time, he also has the second-most receiving yards at 16,579. He also ranks sixth in receiving touchdowns with 118.
These two players exemplify what it is to be a class act on and off the field. Both men possess a work ethic like no other, which is a reason both are still going strong at the ripe age of 36. Both have league-wide respect and admiration, yet aren’t always mentioned among the all-time greats.
This past Sunday was just further proof that age is just a number and hard work will be rewarded. These two players might not be the best at their respective positions all time, but they are both deserving of being in the conversation. These two have quite similar careers and for as much as they can be in the discussion for greatest of all time, they also are in the discussion for most underrated. Enjoy these two future Hall of Famer players while they are still playing.