KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was never a given that Derrick Gore was going to find himself standing in an end zone after scoring a touchdown in an NFL game.
After graduating from high school, Gore said he didn’t have any scholarship offers.
He spent a year in prep school at Milford Academy near his native Syracuse, New York, where there were nine running backs from six states plus the District of Columbia on the 2013 Falcons squad.
Gore totaled 40 carries for 257 yards and three touchdowns before landing at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, where he was injured and didn’t play during his only season in 2014.
Nonetheless, Gore was invited to walk on at Alabama in 2015. He appeared in nine games during the next two seasons — racking up 108 yards rushing on 24 carries in addition to playing special teams — before his nomadic football journey took another turn.
Gore transferred to the University of Louisiana at Monroe but didn’t exactly set the Sun Belt Conference ablaze.
He only averaged 3.6 yards per carry during his junior season and barely averaged 10 carries per game as a senior, finishing with 585 and 662 yards, respectively.
Gore did lead the Warhawks in rushing both seasons and scored six touchdowns in 2017 and 2018, but he barely totaled 1,600 yards from scrimmage in his entire college career — atypical production for a running back who finds his way into the NFL.
That made a 3-yard touchdown Monday against the New York Giants as surprising as it was thrilling.
“It meant a lot honestly,” Gore said of the touchdown. “I really can’t put it into words, just filled with emotions, just knowing my background, where I came from, how long it took for me to get to this point, but very thankful for the opportunity I got.”
Gore made his NFL debut with 10 special-teams snaps Oct. 17 at the Washington Football Team and caught a 7-yard pass a week later at Tennessee, but the Giants game represented the most extensive action of his pro career.
“We saw what Gore did during the preseason,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. “He’s been working his tail off in practice. We were rotating him in, and we thought it was important to get him in the game and let him do his thing. He’s got a knack for it. He’s a strong runner with a low center of gravity.”
Gore led the Chiefs in rushing during the preseason with 86 yards on 18 carries, but obviously it’s different to shine on Monday Night Football.
“It’s been a long time coming honestly,” Gore said. “But I’m just taking it each day, one day at a time, take advantage of the reps that I get, whether it’s one or seven.”
Patrick Mahomes was among the teammates excited to see Gore get his opportunity to shine.
“He ran well,” Mahomes said. “He’s been doing it since training camp, and he finally got his opportunity. He went out there and executed and played well for us. I think that whole running back room has stepped up in different roles this entire season.”
Mahomes made sure to pick up the game ball after Gore scored his first career touchdown and save it for him.
“It’s in my locker right now,” Gore said. “I kind of dropped it off and Patrick handed it to me on the sideline, and I was thankful for that.”
Mahomes said it was a moment worth remembering for Gore, who is among the legion of players who bust their tail largely out of the public eye.
“Yeah, I gave it back to him,” Mahomes said. “First touchdown for him. When you have guys that work that hard and they’re about to get in that end zone for the first time, you’re happy for them. They put in the work every single day and they don’t get seen because they’re not there on those Sundays.”
Gore was seen on Monday with many Chiefs fans clamoring to see even more from the 26-year-old running back.
Gore originally signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent in July 2019, which is fairly late for a player coming from the college ranks.
He spent a couple months on the Chargers’ practice squad before he was released and signed to the Washington Football Team’s practice squad.
Only to be released after the 2019 season and re-signed by the Chargers.
Gore spent a couple weeks late last season on Los Angeles’ practice squad before signing with the Chiefs in February 2021.