SEATTLE — As a boy growing up in Lynnwood, Myles Gaskin loved playing with balls. Basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls and, of course, footballs.
He began playing team sports at the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club near his east Lynnwood home, and he was a standout right from the start. As a basketball player in early grade school, said Paul Keen, the club’s athletic director, “you could tell Myles was far and away a better athlete than the other kids on the court.”
Scott Gaskin, Myles’ father and often his coach, could see his young son had special talent. On most youth teams, he said, “there’s always a kid who’s just a little bit better (than everyone else), and Myles was that kid,” he said. “He played with the older kids a lot. He was better than his peer group and he could (compete well) with the older kids.”
But over time Myles Gaskin gave up certain sports. Soccer was the first to go “when it became evident that he was too rough,” his father said. He was really good at baseball in the early years, “and when they went from tee-ball to coach-pitch he started hitting it out,” his dad said, but then he dropped that, too.
Later on he even stopped playing basketball, though he could dunk in the eighth grade. “He was very athletic,” Scott Gaskin said. “He could dunk the ball, knock home runs and run real fast. He was just a real athletic kid.”
It turned out to be football that he loved the most, and his talent became obvious in his four years at Seattle’s O’Dea High School where he was a running back with enough speed to be a 100-meter state champion in track and field. As a junior in the spring of 2014, Gaskin verbally committed to the University of Washington, making him one of the first commits for the UW Class of 2015.
“He got a lot of (recruiting) letters, but the UW offered first,” Scott Gaskin said. “I’d hear Myles in his room talking to quite a few football coaches, but the thing that (Washington running backs coach Keith) Bhonapha did, he asked to speak to the parents. … And I told Myles, you get the UW on the plate, that’s where you’re going.”
Because Gaskin has spent the last several years playing football at O’Dea and then at Washington, it is easy to assume he is a Seattle guy. Not true, said his father.
“He’s Lynnwood all the way,” Scott Gaskin said. “And I think he appreciates being from Lynnwood.”
The Gaskin family moved to their Lynnwood home from Atlanta shortly before Myles was born. It remains their home today, and likewise a residence that Gaskin still visits at least once a week, and sometimes more, “so I can eat up my parents’ groceries,” he said with a smile.
His early memories of Lynnwood mostly involve “having fun,” he said. “And it was all types of stuff. Like going to the (Alderwood) mall and hanging out, meeting people, stuff like that.”
And, of course, sports. Before football became No. 1 in his life, the basketball court at the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club was like a second home. “I went there and hooped all the time,” he said.
Keen remembers watching Gaskin play basketball as a third-grader. “He was coming back on defense and he was talking to his teammates, and then he pounded the floor to get them pumped up. He was so mild mannered off the court, but on the court you could see even then that he was a motivator and that he had leadership qualities.”
Eventually, Keen added, “he just got too good for the program here. He was a tremendous athlete, and we just couldn’t offer what he needed anymore.”
Gaskin had gone to the Madrona School in Edmonds through sixth grade and then spent two years at Shoreline’s St. Luke School. Though his local public high school was Lynnwood, his parents wanted Myles to follow older brother Ivan to O’Dea.
“At first,” he admitted, “I didn’t want to go there.” O’Dea has an all-male student body, he explained, “and that’s kind of a factor when you’re young.”
Indeed, he added with a laugh, “it’s the kind of thing that kills your high school experience. But now I think it was the best decision for me.”
In his senior season at O’Dea, Gaskin rushed for 1,399 yards and 25 touchdowns. The next year he nearly matched those numbers by running for 1,302 yards and 14 TDs at Washington, and earning a spot on a handful of freshman All-America teams.
But even with his growing athletic reputation, Gaskin never got too big to show up at the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club. As a high school senior, he worked as a referee for the same youth leagues where he once played.
“He did a real good job working with the younger kids when he was reffing,” said Mike Neumeister, area director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. “He was giving back, which was great.”
Sometimes Gaskin would drop in just to say hi. He was a young man who remembered his roots, and he likewise appreciated the people who helped him along the way.
“When Myles came back, one thing that stuck out was that he always said, ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ and ‘Thank you,’” Keen said. “You could tell he had manners and that he’d be taught well. He always had a very polite disposition.”
“He’s a real good kid,” Scott Gaskin agreed. “He’s had a lot of success in his sports career. It’s been a pleasure to watch … and I’m a little bit in awe.”
But for all his successes, not everything came easily for Myles Gaskin. He needed a passing score on the SAT test to gain admittance to Washington, and it took him five tries.
“The kid has shown determination when it comes down to stuff like that,” his father said. “He’s a very determined young man, and as obstacles come up he’ll do what it takes to meet them head on. He’s tried to excel and power through them, both in the classroom and on the field.
“The kid has immeasurable determination. And I don’t think there’s any challenge out there too big for Myles.”