Washington scheduled a pro day on Monday, then held a family reunion instead.
Everybody showed up. Of course, there was the current crop of NFL hopefuls — former Huskies like quarterback Jake Browning, running back Myles Gaskin, tight end Drew Sample, defensive linemen Greg Gaines, Jaylen Johnson and Shane Bowman, linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett and defensive backs Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp, Jordan Miller and JoJo McIntosh. The list goes on.
The next generation was there, too. Senior wide receiver Chico McClatcher circulated through the crowd in a Tacoma Rainiers hat; quarterback Jacob Eason traversed the purple track; outside linebacker Ryan Bowman watched his older brother’s vertical jump; nickelback Myles Bryant supported his recently departed defensive backs. This was a “Where’s Waldo?” of UW contributors, and they weren’t too hard to spot.
The Dempsey Indoor Center also hosted an extensive list of elder statesmen. NFL wide receivers Dante Pettis and John Ross were there. So were defensive backs Kevin King and Zeke Turner and Seahawks tight ends Will Dissly and Darrell Daniels. Oh, and don’t forget defensive lineman and reigning Super Bowl champion Danny Shelton, too.
They came from both coasts, from crowded airports, to stand in a dimly-lit fieldhouse for a couple hours in the afternoon. From the far reaches of NFL active rosters, they felt compelled to come. They stood in a happy huddle on the aforementioned purple track, laughing and shaking hands and posing for occasional pictures.
This was a pro day, sure. But it was also an easy excuse to reconvene.
“It’s just this program. We’re so tight with everything we’ve accomplished in recent years. We’re like this,” said Cardinals safety Zeke Turner, motioning to the mob of current and former Huskies. “I can go back and see all the young guys coming up, see all the older guys. I don’t know, it’s just this program. It’s really tight.”
That’s easy to see.
It’s even easier to hear.
“I heard Kevin King — Kevo is what we call him — about 12 times throughout the throwing thing,” Browning said after wrapping up his throwing session. “I think he’s been yelling any time anybody does anything.”
Indeed, King — now a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers — yelled when McIntosh registered a 36-inch vertical jump. He yelled when Rapp ran his 40-yard dash. Decked out in Packer green, his voice was louder than Pettis’ purple hair. But he wasn’t the only one.
“I think it speaks to the culture we built here,” said departing UW linebacker Tevis Bartlett. “You’ve got guys like Danny Shelton — guys that I didn’t even play with that are coming back to watch us. It’s just that culture of excellence.”
Even after they’re gone, the culture calls to them; it brings them home. It compelled Turner — who made 16 tackles with the Cardinals last season after signing as an undrafted free agent — to fly from Arizona to Seattle for two days with his former teammates.
“I don’t know, it’s just the bond we built,” Turner said with a growing grin. “You just feel that connection. You want to see all the older guys and how they’ve been doing in the NFL, see all the guys going into the NFL and give them the knowledge they need.
“Because they look up to us. We look up to each other. We’re just really tight.”
Rapp, Gaskin produce dissimilar results
Taylor Rapp is almost certainly faster than Jake Browning.
But he (reportedly) didn’t show it on Monday.
After Browning ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds at the NFL Combine last month, Rapp — who is continuing to recover from a groin injury that kept him out of the Rose Bowl — registered a time between 4.74 and 4.77 seconds, according to tweets from NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang.
The 6-foot, 200-pound safety and 2018 All-American opted not to run the 40 at the combine and instead wait until UW’s pro day. It appears that strategy didn’t pay much dividends on Monday, as Rapp’s time would have topped just two total defensive backs who participated in Indianapolis last month.
Meanwhile, according to Rang, Gaskin improved his 40-time from 4.58 seconds at the combine to 4.56 seconds at the Husky pro day on Monday.
Rapp declined to speak with the media. But Gaskin was satisfied with his performance, regardless of where he was asked to run.
“(It’s nice) just being on your home turf a little bit more. But it’s all the same,” Gaskin said. “There’s a lot of eyes and you want to impress everybody that’s here – even my parents. My dad’s behind y’all right now. I want to impress everybody here. That’s what it’s about.”
The 5-10, 193-pound running back certainly impressed throughout a decorated four-year UW career, snagging program records for career rushing yards (5,323), rushing touchdowns (57) and total touchdowns (62). But on Monday, at least, that’s not how he defined success.
“It was great, in the sense of being around my best friends and having fun every day and getting better every day,” Gaskin said. “I think I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I was around in this program. I guess it reflects with the records and all that type of stuff, but that’s not really what I think I was about.
“I was just having fun and trying to win games. I was able to accomplish that. We won a lot of games. We lost some big ones, but we won a lot of games.”
Browning impresses in throwing session
A 53-game starter, Browning also won a lot of games (though critics can argue about the extent of his positive contributions).
But the 6-2, 210-pound senior had a simpler objective on Monday.
“I’ll give you one guess. What do you think?” Browning said with a grin.
“Arm strength?” a certain anonymous Times reporter replied.
“There you go,” Browning said. “I just wanted to show my arm’s gotten stronger. I’ve done a bunch of different stuff to work on that. I feel like I showed that.”
Browning showed a lot during an extensive throwing session — running just about every kind of route, evading pressure and rolling out to either side. The departing senior — who threw for 12,296 yards and 94 touchdowns in a productive four-year career — was plenty accurate, and the improved arm strength was evident.
“He was slinging that thing,” Gaskin said. “From his last three months, he got a lot better. He has everything, all the intangibles, being a leader and all that type of stuff. Just to see his arm get a lot stronger is a big, big thing.”
Added Browning: “I think you prepare so hard for (pro day) that you’re ready for it to be here, and by the time it actually comes you’ve gone through a mock pro day like 12 times. So you’re ready to finally do the real thing. I felt good about it.”