For Myles Gaskin, the move to Miami wasn’t just a culture shock, it was a climate shock.
The Lynnwood native and record-setting University of Washington running back, who is The Herald’s 2018-19 Man of the Year in Sports for his accomplishments between mid-June of 2018 and mid-June of 2019, was drafted by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins this April. The move to Florida represents the first time in his life he’s been away from home.
“I had my welcome-to-Miami moment when right after practice was done I took off my gear and jumped in the pool,” Gaskin said in a recent phone interview from Miami. “I’m not a crazy sweater, but out here you may lose six, seven, eight pounds in an hour-and-a-half of just exercise and practice. It’s definitely much different from Seattle.”
But one thing that wasn’t different for Gaskin in 2018-19 was his excellence on the football field, a dependability that came to define his college career.
Gaskin, a proud alum of O’Dea High School in Seattle, would have attended Lynnwood had he gone to a public school. However, after spending time in both the public (Madrona K-8 School in Edmonds for elementary school) and private (St. Luke School in Shoreline for middle school) educational systems, Gaskin opted to follow his older brother Ivan to O’Dea, where he had a stellar prep career.
Yet as good as he was in high school, no one predicted he’d become arguably the greatest ball-carrier in University of Washington history. As a senior in 2018 he broke just about every possible Huskies career record for a running back. He obliterated the career rushing record, finishing with 5,323 yards to blow past Napoleon Kaufman’s previous record of 4,106. He already possessed the career touchdown record and stretched that number to 62, which dwarfs the previous record of 38 set by George Wilson and matched by Bishop Sankey. His 26 career 100-yard rushing games surpassed the previous record of 21 held by Chris Polk.
In 2018 Gaskin was as steady as ever, carrying the ball 259 times for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite missing two games because of a shoulder injury. He became just the second player in NCAA-FBS history to rush for 1,200-plus yards in four straight seasons, joining Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, who pulled off the feat from 1996-99. The accomplishment demonstrates Gaskin’s remarkable consistency during his four years as a Husky.
“All of this has been such a surprise and such a blessing,” Gaskin’s mom Robbie said. “You can’t put words to it. Who knew this all was going to happen and how to take it? We’ve been awestruck and we feel so blessed about his time at UW, and that it was so close we could see it all develop.”
Most of Gaskin’s records came as a result of his decision to return to Washington for his senior season. Gaskin had the option of turning pro following his junior campaign, but instead opted for one more go around with the Huskies.
“I chased the NFL dream, but I had no reason to leave,” Gaskin explained about his decision to return, adding that the records played no role. “I loved the university, I loved the people around me, I loved the team and I love the city. I got to play in the Rose Bowl and have a lot of fun my senior year, I probably had as much fun as I’ve ever had in a football season in my life. I loved every second of it, and I look back on my decision and 100 percent think I made the right one.”
While Gaskin etched his name repeatedly in the UW record book in 2018, the ways in which returning to school were most profound came off the field.
First, there was learning how to be a leader, something Gaskin hadn’t been his previous three years at UW. He said it was during the two midseason games he missed, at home against Colorado and on the road versus California, when that coalesced.
“I’d never been much of a leader,” Gaskin said. “In high school you’re a leader because you’re one of the better players on the team, but I think I really grew up a lot my senior year. Being a leader is not always because you’re good, it’s about being able to help other people and push them to where they want to be. Being able to push guys, even though I wasn’t playing, was a real eye-opener.”
Returning to school also allowed Gaskin to earn his degree in American Ethnic Studies, something that was important to both him and his family.
“I wanted to get my degree,” Gaskin said. “That was a big thing for me. School never came easy for me, so to be able to say that was something I conquered — finishing school early at that — is something they’ll never be able to take away from me, and I’m very proud of that.”
Four months after his college playing career ended Gaskin was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by Miami. He spent most of the offseason in Miami, participating in rookie minicamp, OTAs and full minicamp. He got some brief time back home before returning to Miami in early July to begin prep work for training camp, which began last Saturday.
“For me this is the first time I’m truly away from home,” said Gaskin, who credited Miami’s veteran running backs and Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage for welcoming him into the fold and showing him the ropes. “I moved out here not knowing anyone in Florida. It’s more than just being in the NFL now, it’s a change of life and a change of place. The vets understand that, and I appreciate them pushing us to hang out, get out of our circle and step into this new life fully.”
Gaskin’s first task of 2019-2020? Securing a spot on Miami’s final 53-man roster.
“I wouldn’t say I have a role yet, just the role of being a rookie and a guy who needs to be hungry and ready to go at all times,” Gaskin said. “If that’s running the ball, or whatever it means, my job is to help this team in any way possible.”
And if there’s one thing Gaskin established, not just in 2018-19 but his entire college career, it’s that he’s a player who can be depended upon.