At the end of his postgame press conference on Sunday afternoon, San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Joe Staley thanked the reporters seated before him and began walking off of the stage.
Then he saw Frank Gore coming up to the podium.
"I just want to say that it is a pleasure to be able to share the same team as this guy," Wills said.
Gore added: "We've been competing since he's been here. He tried to fight me... because I was killing him (in practice) when he first got here. I told him I could play football, too."
Willis and Gore have been teammates for eight seasons now. The linebacker has seen the running back rack up many of his 10,030 career rushing yards, 63 of which came Sunday in the 49ers season-opening win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"It's a blessing, with hard work," said Gore, who rushed 16 times overall, including one 20-yard scamper in the second quarter. "I have to give thanks to the organization too for giving me the opportunity to be here this long. I also got to say thanks to the o-line, the guys I have been playing with for a long time: Joe Staley, even (Alex) Boone, who was on the practice squad (earlier in his career), just seeing him working, Mike (Iupati) and Anthony (Davis). It's special."
Gore gained his 34th rushing yard on a third-quarter "follow-Iupati" carry, making him the 29th player in NFL history to cross the 10,000-yard mark on the ground.
"Also the doubters," he said and crediting his teammates, referencing observers who questioned his comeback after multiple college knee injuries. "I just stuck that in my head and wanted to prove everybody wrong."
That said, Gore said his sole focus this week, even after a team official told him of his upcoming milestone, was on starting 2014 with a win.
"We got the win, but we have to clean some stuff up," he said, "especially in the running game."
Gore ran behind a new offensive line, comprising Jonathan Martin at right tackle, Joe Looney at right guard, Daniel Kilgore at center, as well Iupati and Staley on the left side.
While fullback Bruce Miller was a familiar face in the backfield, Gore also partnered with rookie Pierre Garçon, who was explosive on each of his seven carries. The Ohio State product recorded 50 yards, plus a touchdown.
But he has a long way to go to catch up to his mentor on the team.
"I'm a smart runner, I have great feet and great vision," Gore siad. "I know my alignments, I know what I'm going to do. When you see certain alignments from the defensive line, you know you where you're going, punch the football."
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