Derrick Gore came from Syracuse, New York. He played runningback at Nottingham High School, a local high school in the Syracuse City School district. Then, in 2013, he would transfer to Milford Academy, a prep school, with the hopes of improving his recruiting stock. Derrick was a worker in all phases of his life and knew what it took to ascend to the next level. However, he would meet with disappointment while at Milford. He excelled on the grid iron, but only garnered offers from mid-major schools like Buffalo. It was then that he would seek the advice of his former high school coach, Nick Patterson from Nottingham. “Hell of a kid, on and off the field. Academically, socially, he’s just a hard worker. I told him, ‘hey it’s up to you. Do what you want to do, what you feel is best. You don’t want to live with regrets.’ He said he was going to JUCO, play a year there, graduate, and go from there,” said Patterson. So, it was on to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. He would be welcomed with rave reviews from outlets like Scout.com due to stellar performances in spring and fall camp. Then, adversity would rear it’s ugly head once more. Derrick hurt his knee. Rather than waste a year of eligibility, his coaches told him to sit out. It was a tough blow; especially for a young man with great ambition like Derrick. However, it was part of the process or paying your dues. So, he would swallow that pill, but keep working. Once the season was over, his coach decided to send him along with a few other players on an unofficial visit to the University of Alabama. “He wanted to give it a shot and he took the route to Alabama. He visited, talked with the staff and that’s where he went,” said former Coach Patterson. After being well received by Coach Nick Saban and his staff, Gore’s journey would lead him next to Tuscaloosa.
When he arrived at the Capstone, Gore soon learned that he would be faced with quite the battle as an invited walk-on. He found himself in a crowded backfield of future NFL talent. These weren’t just any individuals vying for NFL stardom. They were: future Heisman winner Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, and eventually Najee Harris. This did not detour Derrick. He remained motivated and determined, contributing anyway he could. It would be in the form of special teams and limited duty, mostly after Alabama had established a comfortable lead against opponents. The highpoint of his Alabama career, stat-wise would come against the University of Florida in the SEC Championship game in 2015. He blocked a punt against the Gators that would be scooped up by fellow runningback, Josh Jacobs, and returned for a touchdown in the first half. His effort would earn him player of the week honors from the Crimson Tide coaching staff. In addition, he scored the game’s final touchdown with a 10 yard run from scrimmage. That season, he earned a national championship ring with Alabama.
The following off season, Gore would find himself 5 deep on the depth chart with no one expected to leave nor graduate. As mentioned earlier, the top rated runningback in that year’s recruiting class, Najee Harris, was set to enroll for the spring semester. Winning a national championship is a prize that seldom few have the opportunity to accomplish. However, it was not enough to keep Gore as a part of a talented and full cupboard of runningbacks at Alabama. He decided it was time to transfer, “These past two years have been nothing short of magical. It’s difficult to come up with the words to describe this journey here at The University of Alabama. At this time, I’ve chosen to explore the option of joining another program for my final 2 years of eligibility. To be clear, I want to give a special thanks to Coach Saban and Coach Burns for giving this kid from NY a shot, I’m forever grateful. So, in closing I leave you with, Roll Tide!”
The next part of his journey would take him to Monroe, Louisiana to play for Matt Viator and The University of Louisiana Monroe. So, why Louisiana Monroe? I was curious as to what drew him to become a Warhawk. I asked Derrick and he said, “Man, really Coach Rob Sale was recruiting me to come to Monroe. He was at Alabama for some time coaching. I knew the mindset he had was being carried over to ULM.” Plus, this time, he would not have to compete with a plethora of NFL-bound talent. He could be the feature back. While achieving that role for the Warkawks, he shared the carries with dual threat quarterback, Caleb Evans. In 2017, he led the team in rushing with 585 yards and 6 touchdowns. Then, in 2018, he would lead ULM again in rushing with 662 yards with an average of 5.1 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns. Gore had notable games rushing for 105 yards vs Southeastern Louisiana, 115 yards vs Georgia Southern, and 147 yards vs Coastal Carolina. He concluded his ULM campaign with 1,247 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns. Gore has been credited as being one of the key components to the turnaround of the ULM program. One of the reasons why he was so valuable was bringing over valuable lessons he learned while at Alabama and instilling them in his teammates. When I asked him what were the biggest lessons, Gore replied, “Paying attention to detail, man, from how you sleep, eat, watching film on your opponent, and even watching film on yourself. It’s also practicing hard, fast, and physical so your body can be used to playing at a high tempo. It just makes the game that easier on Saturdays. Also, recovery and taking care of your body is important. It’s about being a pro, man.” However, he won’t tell you that he was a key component. When summing up his thoughts on his time spent with the Warhawks, he said, “All I really wanted was an opportunity, but what I discovered was a brand-new family.”
Now, his travels will take him down another road. This time, it will lead to the NFL. At the University of Louisiana Monroe’s Pro Day, Derrick Gore flat-out dominated. He erupted with 23 reps of 225lbs on benchpress; which is amongst the best for runningbacks vying for an opportunity in the NFL Draft. In the 40-yard dash, he blazed down the field with a time of 4.55 seconds. Gore also “wowed” scouts with a fantastic showing in position drills and did not drop a single pass out of the backfield. He feels that is his greatest asset. “I feel like my biggest attribute that I bring to the table is being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. It separates my game a lot from different backs, along with my size and speed. I’m able to do that along with getting the tough yards and being solid in pass protection. I can also contribute on special teams,” said Gore. If fans aren’t familiar with Derrick, it’s best to become familiar. NFL scouts have. You may be asking yourself what a team would he getting from him. He’s quick to say, “You’re going to get a work horse who’s willing to play any roll on a team, who’s a first guy off the field.” Derrick’s draft stock has increased greatly and will make him a sure-fire steal for an NFL team in need of a runningback.
Derrick has traveled a long road faced with his fair share of adversity. It has been present at every level since his time in high school. As we talked, I brought up each of the most significant issues that he has faced on each level. However, he made me aware of one more that far outweighed everything else. “Man, the hardest thing I faced was losing my uncle when I was in high school. He and my aunt raised me since I was 3 months old. Just seeing and talking to someone every day, but then, out of the blue, you don’t ever talk to or see that person can be hard to handle. That really gave me motivation to start taking football seriously.” Anyone who has followed him at any stage can say that statement rings true of his life. There is no doubt that he will continue to carry that banner into the next chapter of his life. The NFL Draft is looming and with each workout leading up to it, he will have the memory of his uncle to carry him. When asked in an interview with Draft Diamonds what he felt was the best trait to succeed at the next level, he said, “The ability to adapt to ever changing situations. To remain confident in situations you will face when you have no control over the outcome.” One would say after following his journey that he’s done just that. That’s not bad for a kid from Syracuse.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!