They don’t like to talk much. They like even less talking about themselves. The best way, it turns out, to get Browning and Gaskin going on for days is to ask them about each other.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Neither of them particularly enjoy days like these. At major bowl games, star players have certain media obligations, and Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin were two of Washington’s representatives during a 45-minute Fiesta Bowl news conference here Tuesday morning.
They don’t need the attention. They don’t like to talk much. They like even less talking about themselves.
The best way, it turns out, to get Browning and Gaskin going on days like this is to ask them about each other. To talk about the other guy who doesn’t like to talk.
In their three seasons together, Browning and Gaskin have become the most productive backfield in UW history. That’s a fact, based on their record-setting achievements. Browning broke the school record for passing touchdowns earlier this season (at 77 and counting), and Gaskin earlier this season broke the school record for rushing touchdowns (43) and total touchdowns (47).
And entering Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl against Penn State, Gaskin has a chance to break one of UW’s most cherished records — Napoleon Kaufman’s career rushing mark of 4,106 yards.
For Browning and Gaskin, though, only one statistic truly matters, and that’s reflected in the Huskies’ 22-4 record the past two seasons. And in what could be their final game together Saturday, they’ll try to lead the Huskies to the program’s most significant bowl-game victory since the 2001 Rose Bowl.
“A regular dude”
Neither of them is the most physically imposing player. They don’t fit the archetype of their positions. Browning is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior quarterback. Gaskin is a 5-10, 191-pound junior running back.
“He looks like a regular dude,” Gaskin said Tuesday. “It still shocks me sometimes — like how are you playing college football looking like that?”
“But he plays so hard. He’s always in the film room, and I admire the way he goes about how he plays football. It’s just a lot of fun having him back there. It’s not ever like, Jake says something and I’ll question it. Because I know he probably watched it 20, 30 times already (in film study).”
They met on campus in 2015. Browning became the first true freshman to win UW’s starting QB job in a season opener that year, and Gaskin emerged as the featured back midway through the 2015 season. Gaskin said he would not have been able to do that as a true freshman without Browning alongside him in backfield.
“He knows everything,” Gaskin said. “It was impressive that he could tell me, ‘Hey, line up here. You got this. You got that.’ As a freshman, you needed that when you’re on the field because you have no idea where you’re going. …
“I think he’s on a much different level than most.”
Still the same
Success hasn’t changed them. That’s a theme from both when they talk about the other.
“What I appreciate most about Myles is, you talk to him then (as a freshman) and you talk to him now it’s pretty much the same exact thing,” Browning said. “He asked if today was optional for media (interviews). So I don’t think he’s really interested in being the guy everybody talks about. I think he just wants to go play football and win games, and that’s pretty much it.
“I think that’s why we’ve been able to get along pretty well and never really had any issues at all. … I have zero problems with people that are willing to work hard and want to win games that aren’t interested in being celebrities.”
Rushing record in sight
Gaskin’s chase of Kaufman’s rushing record will be a noteworthy subplot in the Fiesta Bowl. He needs 150 yards to break the 23-year-old record, and to get that — to even get as close as he has in three seasons — would be an achievement worth celebrating at a program with a rich tradition of running backs.
Even growing up in Lynnwood, Gaskin says he never paid much attention to the Huskies as a kid. But he has talked with Kaufman a few times, and he has watched highlights of Kaufman’s time at UW in the early 1990s.
“He was a baller,” Gaskin said.
He doesn’t want to fuss over his pursuit of Kaufman’s record, doesn’t want this to be about him.
“It would be cool,” he said. “It would be a blessing, like I always say. Records are great, but I think team records (are) most important.”
Similarly, when it comes to whether he will declare for the NFL draft after this season, Gaskin says he doesn’t want to be a distraction to the team this week.
“Got to talk to mom and dad about it,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been talking about it. I’m not going to act like it’s sneaking up on me. It’s nothing like that. But I’m just really focused on this game. And I’m not giving that answer to just to be a generic answer. I just want to play football. When this game is over, then I’ll sit down with mom and pop and my brother, everybody in my corner, and give it some real thought. But it’s not pressing.”
Gaskin doesn’t recall ever having a disagreement with Browning, much less an argument.
“But I can remember the last time I asked him, ‘What do I got on this play?’ That was the last game we played,” Gaskin said. “He’s always got my back, he’s always pointing me in the right direction.”
Together, they’ve pointed the program back onto the national stage.
“I think it’s something where I’ll be friends with Myles for the rest of my life,” Browning said. “We’ve shared a special time of our lives together with this team.”