Kansas City Chiefs running back Derrick Gore — who rushed 11 times for 48 yards with a touchdown in the team’s 20-17 victory over the New York Giants Monday night — took a special souvenir from his first extended NFL action.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes personally gave him the ball from his first NFL touchdown.
“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. But they’re working harder than us because they’re on the practice squad, and they’re also doing scout team, and they’re also doing reps with the first team. So guys like that, you’re happy when they get in the end zone.”
Gore was appreciative as he began his remarks.
“It’s in my locker right now,” he explained. “I kind of dropped it off, and Patrick handed it to me on the sideline — and I was thankful for that.”
Gore primarily played special teams in his first two games after being promoted from the practice squad. Even he was surprised by his increase in usage against the Giants.
“They kind of told me I was going to get thrown in there,” Gore recalled, “But I didn’t expect for me to play that much. I kind of just caught a rhythm — and they just left me out there. I knew I was going to get a couple of carries. But once I looked at the sideline and see that they’re leaving me out there, I was like, ‘Man, it’s time to roll.’”
Gore, who played two seasons as a walk-on at Alabama before transferring to Louisiana Monroe, has taken a hard road to get to this point. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019. He made his NFL debut during the Chiefs ‘Week 6 game against the Washington Football Team.
“The first time I actually got cut from the Chargers, I kind of knew what the business was like,” he acknowledged. “That’s when it hit on the head the reality that everyone doesn’t get a chance to really do this. So you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get.”
As with any running back in Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s offense, ability in pass protection has been a factor in Gore earning playing time. Both Gore and his coach discussed improvement in this aspect in their remarks.
“Honestly, just working on my technique,” he said of his role in the passing game. “(Running backs) coach Greg Lewis and coach [Eric] Bieniemy just helping me out understanding pre-snap determinations, like what I can work on and stuff like that before the ball is even snapped.”
Gore also credited Bieniemy’s support, remembering his words when the Chiefs cut him at the end of the preseason.
“When I got released from the final cut, he told me that, eventually, I’m going to help this team out to win some football games.”
Reid concurred when asked about Gore’s improvement.
“He’s a quiet kid, but he’s a hard worker,” Reid observed. “He’s diligent. He knew that he had to catch up in the pass game, particularly protections, so he worked his tail off on that. And he got to where we had confidence that he could go in and do run or pass and go with it.”
While injured starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire is eligible for activation from injured reserve this week, he did not return to practice on Wednesday. All signs point to Gore continuing to be a factor in the offense for this week’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
“This kid, he’s got the quick feet,” Reid said of how Gore differs from other backs on the roster, “and if he needs to dash through you, he can do that. So, it’s just a little different pitch that you can throw at the defense.”
“I think you learned that he’s a playmaker,” agreed Mahomes. “He’s ready to go out there and step up when his number is called. It’s great to have those types of guys on the team that are going to put in that work every single day knowing that they might not get the opportunity to play. So that when they do get that opportunity — they’re ready to go.”
For his part, Gore is ready to take on any role he is given.
“I feel like I do it all honestly,” he claimed. “Catch the ball, block, play physical when I need to, play at a low pad level.
“I definitely try to bring that blue-collar mentality to the team.”