Raheem Mostert sat alone in the 49ers cafeteria in 2016, trying to find his way onto his seventh team in two years, when Joe Staley sat down and began a cherished mentorship.
"I just wanted to pick his brain, so I asked him, 'What does it take for a guy like me to be like Frank Gore?' " Mostert recalled Wednesday in a video conference. "Because Frank Gore is my idol and I love watching him play, and I know Joe was blocking for him when he was here."
Staley's response: "Hey, Frankie G, he likes to work.' ... You've got to be like Frank, man. You're a great running back. I can just tell by your personality. Frankie G. works really hard."
Mostert's workload should skyrocket this coming season, having emerged into a starring role on last season's road to the Super Bowl.
As Gore worked his way atop the 49ers' all-time rushing list from 2005-14, he averaged 257 carries per season after his rookie debut totaling just 127 carries.
For perspective, Mostert had 137 carries last regular season -- the same as Tevin Coleman -- before erupting for 53 carries and 336 yards and five touchdowns in the playoffs. That included a 220-yard, four-touchdown masterpiece in the NFC Championship win over the Green Bay Packers.
"I just try to live up to that expectation of Frankie G. and try to give it my all," Mostert added.
Mostert, 28, didn't have much wear on his tires before that season, at least as a running back. Of his 41 carries his first four years in the NFL, 33 came in his final five games of 2018 before a season-ending forearm fracture.
Mostert bulked up his speedy frame this offseason in his next step to mimic Gore's 49ers grind; Gore joined the New York Jets this offseason after stints in Indianapolis, Miami and Buffalo.
"Just trying to incorporate things in my daily workout so I can take those hits and be one of those guys getting 200 carries," Mostert said. "I've got to get prepared for that and the only way I know how is to get bulky and stronger."
The 49ers shipped to his Cleveland home a strip for his grass that outlines offensive linemen's positions.
"They wanted me to work more on my aiming points for the run game," Mostert said. "I'm trying to elevate my game."
He's also intent on getting more multi-dimensional as a receiving option, both out of the backfield or motioning into the slot. A former wide receiver in his Florida high school days and at Purdue, he had just 14 receptions last regular season and three in the postseason last year.
Staley may have retired, but his replacement at left tackle, Trent Williams, already has Mostert's admiration. "He's probably one of the most athletic guys I've seen thus far, on tape. I'm so excited to work with him and the entire O-line, because everyone else is athletic," Mostert added.
Despite Matt Breida being dealt to the Miami Dolphins, Mostert says the 49ers running backs will remain a close-knit group, one that brings back Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr. to compete with Jerick McKinnon and rookies Salvon Ahmed and Jamycal Hasty.
On McKinnon's expected debut after two seasons lost to a knee injury, Mostert said: "I'm trying to pick his brain route-running wise and he's trying to pick my brain with the run scheme. We're doing a great job right now and I can't wait for him to show what everyone's doubting him on."
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