There is an alternate Pac-12 universe where Myles Gaskin didn’t play for the University of Washington.
In this upside-down, parallel world, the Seattle native committed to Arizona State and balled out in the desert for Todd Graham. Weird right? But stranger things have happened.
“When I was in high school, just being a young dude, I thought I wanted to go to Arizona State just to go party,” admitted Gaskin, now a running back with the Miami Dolphins. “But I got my first offer from Washington after Coach (Chris) Peterson got the job. And my mom basically told me ‘you are staying home, there’s no reason for you to leave the state of Washington – you’ve got this great university, you’ve got this great new coach.’ I couldn’t thank her more to this day.”
In many ways Gaskin embodies Petersen’s reign in the Emerald City – he’s the poster child for tremendous in-state recruiting with an emphasis on player potential.
“He wasn’t highly touted as a recruit coming out of high school but he came to University of Washington while we were slowly trying to get the program turned in the right direction,” said Huskies running backs coach Keith Bhonapha. “I’m more of a recruiter off of potential. I’m always looking for those guys that are going to continually get better and take the next step. I’ve been fortunate enough to pick out some guys like that and Myles was one of them.”
Gaskin was a three-star recruit out of O’Dea High School but was slightly slept on because of his size, though those that knew him well never counted him out.
“He loved to play therefore he never had a bad practice, never had a bad game,” recounted O’Dea football coach Monte Kohler. “When we got to the field, he ran off the bus – he couldn’t wait to get started. The other side of that, he didn’t want to go home when it was over. He was a hard worker, the hardest worker we had so everybody admired him and respected him.”
Kohler, who has been at O’Dea for the past 35 years as a coach and athletic director, knew Gaskin was going to be special early on.
“We knew he was going to be a pretty darn good high school player even as a freshman but more so going into his sophomore year – he was on a good team where he was a difference maker,” said Kohler. “Then junior and senior year he started to come into his own. He was the hardest worker and not intimidated by anything so when you put that with a love to play, you’ve got a real chance to make it at the next level.”
Gaskin left O’Dea a record-setting running back, holding the title for most career rushing touchdowns (75), most career rushing yards (5,065) and a member of the 2011 team that was one of only four in school history to win 13 games.
But O’Dea was more than titles and touchdowns for Gaskin. It was the beginning of a life-long brotherhood, one that counted Nate Burleson and Taylor Mays as alumni.
“He was always a gentleman so the teachers were impressed with him and obviously those relationships that he built while he was here remain important to him,” reflected Kohler. “He still comes back quite a bit – every time he is in town we see him and I talk to him.”
Even when the talented tailback moved on from the only all-boys school in the state, he never really left O’Dea behind. Gaskin roomed with a former O’Dea classmate and teammate at Washington, punter Race Porter. He was hyped up before games by fellow O’Dea alum David Mazzeo, the Huskies emcee, known in the music industry as “Wizdom.” And he routinely returned to his old stomping grounds to check in on the community.
“I think the coolest thing I felt that Myles did throughout his time at UW was how much he would go back to O’Dea,” said Bhonapha. “You would also read stories about him coming out and visiting people that were in hospice and things like that. He really took how important he was to this program, to the city and to the state to heart and he did his best to try and reach back out to people and the community.”
Bhonapha recounted one of his favorite Gaskin stories, one where the NFL running back had returned to Washington for a visit and decided to go with his former coach to pick up Bhonapha’s son. Gaskin showing up to the preschool, according to Bhonapha “was bigger than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny combined.”
Another thing Bhonapha remembers about Gaskin – every single one of his fumbles.
The sure-handed back only fumbled four times while at Washington and only twice for a loss of yardage. That’s an extremely impressive statistic given that he racked up a record-setting 5,323 career rushing yards and had the ball in his hands over 1,000 times.
“I can tell them to you right now – Southern Miss, Fresno State and twice against Stanford,” remembered Bhonapha. “He has a really good, really low center of gravity and is able to anticipate the way blocks are going to get set up. Plus, he never really takes any direct shots and he always falls forward. He’s probably the most consistent runner that I’ve ever coached – he just doesn’t lose yards.”
But Gaskin likes to focus on more pleasant Husky memories, like going undefeated in the one game that lays it all on the line for the state of Washington – the Apple Cup.
“I really don’t have any animosity in this rivalry with Wazzu,” admitted Gaskin. “It’s a huge rivalry, all my life I’ve known it but we have kind of always beat up on them. I always have fun though; I love playing out there. I would always see people I grew up with in the stands, calling me by name, calling my friends by name. It’s definitely one of those environments that you can’t sleep on at all.”
When Gaskin was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he left Washington, both the state and the school, as a bit of a legend. And not just because he was the first player in Pac-12 history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in all four seasons, or because he was just the second NCAA-FBS player ever to reach 1,200 yards in four straight years, but because he was the kind of person who never forgot where he came from.
“In some ways it speaks of Myles and the city of Seattle,” Bhonapha said. “Just kind of slowly started turning and the next thing you know you’ve got this superstar running back that everybody’s talking about – scouts would ask me where he was from and I was like ‘right here in Seattle, O’Dea High School – he’s from here’.”
Now Gaskin has the chance to win over a new city as the running back competition heats up in Miami with the additions of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. With all that talent, Gaskin will have to cement his place on the roster the only way he knows how.
“I think his consistency and work ethic are going to set him apart,” revealed Bhonapha. “His journey right now with the NFL is kind of like his journey coming to UW, it’s building. I think he’s just going to continue to get comfortable and get the feel. I know this for sure, he’s not going to get outworked – one thing people don’t know is truly how competitive he is.”
Gaskin also has former ASU running back Kalen Ballage and former Cal running back Patrick Laird to compete with. Although in that alternate Pac-12 universe, Gaskin and Ballage were vying for carries long before the Dolphins.
But the Seattle native is no stranger to hard work. And as he continues to put on for his city, it’s doubtful that Gaskin ever wonders what life would have been like as a Sun Devil.
“He wouldn’t have made it at Arizona State, I do know Myles well enough to tell you that,” laughed Bhonapha. “If you are from Washington you really want to go to the University of Washington but if you can’t get in there, you go to Washington State. I’m just playing. It is something special though, the pride that the state has in both of the schools and in football.”
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.
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