Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images
When Joe Staley conducted his final press conference on Tuesday afternoon, there were accolades and helmets and a healthy number of jerseys around him: at least a handful of framed jerseys of his wife, professional soccer player, Carrie Dew, some of Staley’s own, from high school to college to the NFL, one from Alex Smith, Justin Smith, Mike Iupati, a collector’s item from soccer player Gareth Bale’s Tottenham days, and hiding behind Staley, along with a Buffalo Bills helmet, a Frank Gore jersey.
Gore tweeted the following when Staley announced his retirement:
— Frank Gore (@frankgore) April 26, 2020
Staley recalled when he came into the league following his career-high, 1,695-yard season, he was almost in awe of Gore. Few players, Staley said, had the impact on him that Gore did.
“I think he knows now because I communicated this with him, but I don’t think at the moment he understood how much of an impact he had on my football career,” Staley said. “Frank was a guy that I watched; I was a huge sports fan growing up and he was a guy that I watched and not idolized, but he was a superstar. So, I came in the NFL and he had just got done rushing for 1,600 yards and he was a guy that was the leader of the team and he was a San Francisco 49er. To watch him work and the way that he approached every single day was special for me as a rookie just being like ‘This is what it takes to be a stud in the NFL.’”
Part of the joy of Staley’s career, he said, came from being able to block for Gore.
“It was just special to be able to block for him for so long,” Staley said. “You guys all know Frank. He’s quiet. He doesn’t do a lot of stuff. He doesn’t pump himself up. He’s just a guy that you want to play for and a guy that you respect because of what he does and what he brings to the game of football. He’s a great ambassador for the game.
“I could just go on and on about Frank. It was really special for me to play for him. He reached out over this weekend and it was a special conversation just to be able to talk with him. He shared some nice words and stuff like that. He’ll be a lifelong friend and someone I was very fortunate enough to cross paths with for a long time and have a lot of special moments with.”