UW RB Salvon Ahmed looks back on first spring practice of 2018
When someone brings up the concept to Myles Gaskin, he can't help but crack a smile before delivering a serious answer crafted with careful thought.
The 21-year-old Washington star tailback is a grandfather. Not literally. But by college football standards, he's an old man within the Huskies locker room. Gaskin will be a senior at UW in the fall and he's doing it in an era when achieving any hint of success is reason enough to bolt for the NFL after three seasons.
"It's crazy. It's went by fast. Four years has felt like two weekends," Gaskin said Wednesday after UW ended its first spring practice. "It's great to have that kind of role where guys kind of look up to you and come to you and try to learn stuff from you on and off the field. It's things like, 'Hey. Have you ever taken this class?' or 'Have you ever done this?' or 'What's fun to do out in Seattle?'"
Anyone assessing UW going into 2018 views Gaskin as one of the key reasons the Huskies can challenge for the Pac-12 crown and a College Football Playoff berth.
What might be overlooked is how he's prepared himself to become one of the most important figures within his locker room.
Gaskin's understanding of his new role didn't come overnight. It's been years in the making. He learned from former Huskies running back Lavon Coleman. The dynamic went from mentor-mentee to becoming one of the most valuable relationships they've each had in their young lives.
There was a moment after last year's 33-30 win over Utah when Gaskin had Coleman leave one interview so they could answer a series of questions about their friendship together.
"I think it was last year. Halfway through the year, realizing that I'm kind of the older dude now already," Gaskin said. "I mean, Lavon was the older, older dude and I was the next best thing I guess. It was taking that in and taking that role was huge."
The Coleman-Gaskin partnership helped the Huskies win the Pac-12 and reach the CFP semifinal during the 2016 season. It worked again last year when they led UW to a 10-3 season and the school's first Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Another tailback who played a part in UW's success was then-freshman Salvon Ahmed. The former U.S. Army All-American ran for 388 yards and three touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 77 yards. Even in a growing role, he was so entrenched with the duo Gaskin declared Coleman his "big brother" and Ahmed his "little brother."
Videos of Ahmed and Gaskin working out together during the winter in Bellevue were all over "Husky Twitter" throughout the offseason.
"We always look to how not only we can better the team but as a team, how as a team we can all get better," Ahmed said of himself and Gaskin. "We worked hard this offseason. Lot of camaraderie in the weight room and on this field. I think we got a lot of great things in the future this year."
Ahmed makes it sound simple in March but there was a time in late December when no one really knew what to expect from the Huskies' running game.
Gaskin ran for a career-best 1,380 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had a career-high 19 receptions for 232 yards and three TDs. His 21 rushing TDs were tied for the third-most nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision players. Plus, he was only 52 yards away from being UW's all-time leading rusher.
Those reasons are why Washington fans wanted Gaskin back. They also knew those accolades are why he could have gone to the NFL.
If Gaskin left, the Huskies would have Ahmed but would have to use spring and fall camp to develop their options. There was even talk they could utilize receivers Chico McClatcher and four-star signee Trey Lowe at running back, a position they each played in high school.
Returning to school meant a chance to combine with Ahmed to form a dynamic offense while letting the younger players develop.
"It's a big responsibility because you have to take it in but it's not so much in your head," said Gaskin, who received a fourth-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. "It's just living life and playing football. At the end of the day, you're always going to ask the older guy and being the older guy, that's my responsibility to have the right answer. Know what to say. The right way to say it. I just embrace that role and I'm happy about it."