The last time he faced Frank Gore, Antrel Rolle was in a Cardinals uniform, and his longtime friend and competitor rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown in a 49ers victory. The last time Kenny Phillips and the Giants faced Gore, the two-time Pro Bowler ran for a mere 11 yards on 11 carries in a 49ers loss.
The two safeties will try to prevent the former on Sunday against a fellow member of the University of Miami fraternity, while Gore looks to continue his streak of 100-yard games.
"Me and Frank are pretty good friends," said Phillips, who was the nation's top safety coming out of high school when Rolle and Gore were finishing their careers at Miami in 2004. "Of course we're brothers from 'The U.' He's a competitor. He's definitely a competitor. He wants to win at all costs. He works hard, and he's showing that he's one of the best backs in the league right now."
Gore set a franchise record last week with his fifth straight 100-yard effort, and Rolle, who faced him twice a year with the Cardinals before becoming a Giant, doesn't want their relationship to headline Sunday's game with NFC implications on the line.
"I'm not going to make our locker room focus about Frank Gore at the end of the day," Rolle said. "I respect him as a player, I respect him as a friend, but at the end of the day, we're going to play football. The game has to be played on Sunday, and that's what it is."
Training together over the offseason, their friendship goes further back than Coral Gables. Before they played with each other on Saturdays and then against each other on Sundays, the two Pro Bowlers faced each in Pop Warner while growing up in Florida.
"He was a running back and I was a running back," Gore said during a conference call on Wednesday. "They beat us 20-26. I had about 200 yards and he had a good game. I remember it like it was yesterday."
And so does Rolle.
"I'm very familiar with his game, but it's going to take more than me," Rolle said. "It's going to take all of us to focus in on our keys and do what we have to do and make sure we're technically sound."
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