Soon after the Rose Bowl, Gaskin turned his attention toward next week's NFL combine in Indianapolis. He has been training six days a week with several former UW teammates and is eager to perform in front of NFL executives and scouts.
He wore his No. 9 Washington uniform for the last time on New Year’s Day, and his Rose Bowl performance that afternoon was vintage Myles Gaskin: 121 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
He even threw his first career touchdown pass for the Huskies, whose late comeback fell short in a 28-23 loss to Ohio State.
The most productive running back in Husky history, Gaskin rushed for 5,323 yards and 57 touchdowns in his UW career and joined Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, as the only backs in NCAA history to rush for 1,200 yards or more in each of their four seasons.
Soon after the Rose Bowl, Gaskin turned his attention toward this week’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. He has been training six days a week with several former UW teammates, among others, at Tracy Ford’s Sports Performance in Bellevue, and Gaskin says he’s eager to perform in front of NFL executives and scouts.
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“I know there’s going to be a lot of eyes watching,” he said. “I just want to enjoy the moment, obviously, because not everybody gets to be there.”
Here are five things to know about Gaskin’s preparations entering the NFL combine:
5. The competitor
Gaskin’s older brother, Ivan, recently tried to articulate the approach, the attitude, that carried his younger brother through his wildly successful run at UW. That line of thinking triggered for Ivan a memory back to the spring of 2015, when Myles was a senior at O’Dea High School.
On May 30, 2015, running in Lane 3 in a maroon and gold singlet, Myles won the 100-meter final at the Class 3A track and field state championships, edging Rainier Beach’s Emmanuel Wells by two-hundredths of a second, 11.02 to 11.04. (Wells, by the way, is now a record-setting sprinter at Washington State.)
The victory earned Myles a place at the top of the awards podium and a customary gold medal around his neck.
A few days later, Myles’ parents were surprised to find the gold medal haphazardly lying on the floor in the back seat of their car, discarded and forgotten.
“It damn near got thrown out with the trash,” Ivan said.
Big brother relayed this as a way to emphasize just how little his little brother cares about anything other than the competition. Myles is a competitor, Ivan will tell you at every turn.
“I think if you asked Myles how many yards he (had at UW), he doesn’t know. How many touchdowns? No idea,” Ivan said. “When you take a dude like that — he’s not worried about anything other than the fight. That’s one of the best parts about what he’s been able to do: Every day, get up and just be a dog that day. Just win today.”
4. ‘I love my life’
At one minute before midnight Nov. 17, Gaskin typed out four words and share them on social media: “I love my life,” he tweeted.
“Just thinking about everything that’s happened the last four years and thinking about how I was coming into college thinking — I don’t even know what I was thinking (back then). But I wasn’t thinking it would turn out quite like it did,” he recalled last week. “Just feeling real blessed and trying to take advantage of each and every day, like you’re supposed to. Everybody says that, but it’s kind of hard to do.
“I went through stages where I was always looking for that next big thing, instead of making each day the next big thing. I just had a better understanding of the whole ‘life’ thing. I grew up. It was a great season; I’ve got brothers who I’m going to talk to my whole life. That time in my life was coming to a close, and I loved every second of it.”
3. The Huskies’ rock
In four seasons as UW’s featured back, Gaskin missed just two games. He carried, caught or returned the football 1,015 times for the Huskies, and even with all his highlights and all his records, his durability might be what’s most impressive.
The ailing shoulder that sidelined him for two and a half games last October is “great” now, Gaskin said last week. He doesn’t divulge much about the nature of the injury, but he does say he’s not concerned about what doctors and trainers will find in his shoulder during examinations at the NFL combine.
Turns out, Gaskin also played through a shoulder injury for much of his junior season in 2017, when he rushed for 1,380 yards, 21 touchdowns and averaged 6.22 yards per carry, all career highs.
Gaskin almost never missed a practice, either.
“He’s been such a rock for us,” said Keith Bhonapha, UW’s running-backs coach, adding: “This guy did everything we asked of him. He came in and turned our running-back room around almost single-handedly. And even more than that, I’m most excited about the type of person and the type of leader he became for this team.”
Bhonapha, unprompted, echoed Ivan’s description of Myles’ general approach.
“It’s a rare gift,” Bhonapha said, “for him to come out every day for practice and have that mind-set of, I’m going to give it all I got.”
Deontae Cooper was a veteran running back when Gaskin arrived at UW in the summer of 2015. Before the season, the Huskies would have their usual early-morning team workouts, and Cooper and Gaskin would then make daily treks to Gas Works Park to run sprints up and down the steep hills in the heat of the afternoon. Gaskin was “constantly beating down my door” wanting to run more, lift more, do more, Cooper said.
“What was cool to see, after I left, was Myles naturally stepping into a leadership role,” Cooper said. “Here’s this kid who, he’s not boastful, not arrogant, and even with all the accolades he was getting, he just walked into a natural leadership role and continued to be himself. Not a lot of people know how to handle that.”
Most star running backs have down time during a typical week. Coaches often will limit their carries in practices, particularly late in a season. But that down time frustrated Gaskin, who would lament his lack of practice touches to UW punter Race Porter, one of Gaskin’s closest friend going back to their O’Dea days.
“He’s the hardest worker in every workout,” Porter said. “He’s always been little Myles — stronger than anyone else around. He’s never quit on anything, and he always gave his best effort, whether it was bench-pressing in the weight room or a game of pickup basketball after P.E. He was just always going harder than everyone else. Always.”
2. Gaining weight
Gaskin, listed at 5 feet 10 and 193 pounds as a senior last fall, said he was up to 201 pounds last week, and he hopes to weigh in right around 200 in Indianapolis.
He ought to be one of the faster running backs at the combine, and he hopes to show he’s stronger than some expect. He recently completed 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a good amount for a running back of any size.
Many analysts have Gaskin projected as a fourth- or fifth-round selection in Aprils’ NFL draft.
“I think when you look at Myles Gaskin, he’s another running back (who’s) a solid Day 3 pick with the kind of ability he has running the football,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said this week. “Two years ago, he averaged over 6 yards a carry. He’s shown, when he has been given the opportunity, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. But I think he’s a good Day 3 pick.”
Gaskin says he’s trying to avoid the speculation.
“People can say what they want to say. People have their estimates and ranges of where they think I’m going to go,” he said. “I don’t agree with all of them — I probably don’t agree with any of them — but I feel like I’ve got something to prove every time I step on the field.”
Ben Burr-Kirven, UW’s All-American senior linebacker last fall, has been training with Gaskin over the past six weeks. Burr-Kirven was a standout running back in high school, and he came to UW with Gaskin as part of the 2015 recruiting class. What separates Gaskin?
“His patience is elite,” Burr-Kirven said. “He’s obviously a great athlete; he’s fast; he’s explosive; he checks all the boxes, in my opinion. We’ve kind of got the same knocks: ‘He’s a little too short,’ and all that stuff. But he’s the best running back I’ve played against, except maybe (Saquon) Barkley. Maybe Barkley. Those are the guys I see — Myles and Saquon. They’re obviously different type players, but every day the best back we saw all year was Myles Gaskin.
“It’s easy to knock people and easy to look at him and say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t look like Derrick Henry.’ But when I’m out there, I’m playing chess against Myles with the way he makes cuts. Other backs, they’re going to run right through the hole and you smash ’em. With Myles, you have to peek around blocks, and it’s just a lot more cerebral with him.”
1. A new process begins
The competition begins again in Indianapolis — on-field workouts for running backs are scheduled for Friday — and while the 40-yard dash is an important measurement for NFL prospects, Gaskin doesn’t see that as any sort of finish line for him.
“I love the game of football. I love being a teammate,” he said. “And I just want to come in and do whatever I can to play from Day 1. And if it doesn’t work out like that, I’m just going to keep working each and every day.
“I can’t wait for the whole process. I’m excited for that. I know there are some question marks around my name, and I want to fill out all those boxes.”