Coming out of Seattle's O'Dea High School in 2014, Myles Gaskin ranked as the 54th- best running back in the country and 11th-best player overall in Washington state, according to the recruiting services.
By the time Gaskin stood in the Pullman snow after beating Washington State in the 2018 Apple Cup and proclaimed, "I ain't ever lost to no Coug," he had rewritten the rushing record book for the University of Washington.
In his four years for the Huskies, he piled up 1,000 yards each season and was considered one of the top running backs in college football history.
He turned up in the living rooms and on the TV sets belonging to young football players across Washington, as well. He still does, as a productive member of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Gaskin had a profound impact on the elite state running backs who have come after him, namely these four:
- 2022 Djouvensky Schlenbaker, Squalicum
- 2023 Isaiah Carlson, Ferndale
- 2023 Jayden Limar, Lake Stevens
- 2024 Jason Brown, Seattle
"I loved watching [Gaskin] growing up," Schlenbaker said. "I learned how to be patient watching how he stayed behind his line until the opening was there."
In a short five-game season this past month, Schlenbaker rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior at Bellingham's Squalicum High School.
At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, Schlenbaker might be mistaken for a for an inside linebacker. Make no mistake, he's a running back. He grew up wanting to emulate Myles Gaskin.
The same goes for Ferndale's 6-foot-1, 206-pound Carlson, who plays a few miles up Interstate 5 from Schlenbaker. Although he also lines up at linebacker, he's a big, punishing back who had a 5-touchdown performance against Sedro Woolley recently.
“I remember it almost always took multiple defenders to bring Gaskin down," Carlson recalled. "I try to model model my game a bit after his hard-nosed running style. I definitely look up to that.”
With more room to grow, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Limar and the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Brown are more of a traditional blend of size and speed. They try to show that vision and patience that Gaskin displayed.
"I'm OK if the hole isn't there," Limar said. "I watched Myles Gaskin growing up. He's helped me know when to bounce the play outside."
All four are expected to be candidates to make the elite Sports Illustrated All-American listing and top 10 rankings at the running back position nationally.
They all point to the Husky legend as their inspiration.
At Gaskin's high school alma mater, Brown wears Gaskin's old No. 6 jersey as he traces his hero's footsteps.
"He showed that a kid from O'Dea can do big things," Brown said.
As a freshman, Brown is already making things happen. In just his third high school game, he tied Gaskin's record of 5 rushing touchdowns in a game. He nearly broke it.
"I had 6 but I had one taken back because of a penalty," Brown said.
The O'Dea says that he models his game after Gaskin.
"I just look at his explosiveness in the way he’s able to get out of his cuts really fast," Brown said. "He has tremendous power and strength he runs with being undersized."
Limar displayed his own burst earlier this year when broke loose for 5 TDs of his own in a game, which included a 95-yard kickoff return for a score.
Schlenbaker provided a 5-TD, 298-yard performance this past season. He sits at 11th all-time in Whatcom County for career rushing yards with a season remaining.
All told, the four backs have individually stated an interest in not only the running-back position but perhaps one day playing for the UW same as Gaskin.
"The state of Washington's popping this year, especially with running backs," Limar said. "But not only that, but we have good DBs, receivers, everything. If these kids stay home, Washington could become one of the best schools out there."