Of all the misconceptions about Jake Browning that might exist in the social media-sphere, University of Washington senior running back Myles Gaskin attempted to dispel one of them in particular after a few seconds of thought.
“Jake isn’t that slow,” Gaskin said.
No, that was not meant as a backhanded compliment.
“He’s really not,” Gaskin laughed. “In conditioning, sometimes he’ll even be leading the pack for a little bit. I wouldn’t let him beat me, but he sometimes beats other dudes. He’s actually athletic.”
How do we know what Gaskin says is true?
Because there’s no way he’d otherwise admit to something like this:
“He can hoop. I actually lost to him one-on-one,” Gaskin said. “Not proud of that. He’s got some handles and he’s an athlete. He can do it all and I don’t know how.”
But how – how does Gaskin lose to Browning?
“I don’t know – he carries all the time,” Gaskin said. “But he can play basketball. I thought he was going to be terrible. I thought he was just a quarterback like most quarterbacks – like he can play quarterback and that’s it. I’ll get him next time.”
They only get a next time because Gaskin chose to return for his senior year with the Huskies instead of testing the waters of the NFL draft.
They call each other brothers, but those two pillars of this UW football program now get a luxury so few schools experience, especially in this era of get-to-the-NFL-while-you-can – a four-year starting running back alongside a four-year starting quarterback.
Add an experienced offensive line in front of them and you can see why the Huskies enter their 12:30 p.m. Saturday showdown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta against No. 9-ranked Auburn as the favorite with a No. 6 ranking to the school’s name and as the unanimous favorite to win the Pac-12 North this season.
Browning is UW’s career passing touchdowns leader and trails only Cody Pickett for most career passing yards. Gaskin is UW’s career rushing touchdowns leader and trails only Napolean Kaufman for most career rushing yards.
Not that their QB-RB relationship, with one from Folsom, California, the other a graduate of Seattle’s O’Dea High School, has always been roses and rainbows.
Browning holds players to standards, and he’s done that since he was a freshman. Some of his teammates said Browning’s hard approach was more weird then, but he toned it down slightly entering his final season.
“We definitely don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes,” Gaskin said. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ And sometimes he does the same thing to me. Or he’s like, ‘Hey, you need to hit that hole.’ You kind of learn to take it and it’s not so much a fight or an argument, you just take it as he’s trying to help.”
But Gaskin says they’ve never crossed a line. It’s always to push each other, and push their teammates.
“Personally, I think that’s how you play football,” Gaskin said. “You have to kind of get after a dude. Football is not a nice game and you’re not supposed to be a nice guy out there. At the end of the day, he might need to spark a little fire in somebody to get them going and that’s how some guys play.”
One reporter went so far as to tell Browning Tuesday afternoon after UW’s practice that the quarterback frequently seems to “keep everything chill.”
“I wouldn’t say I keep everything real chill or anything like that,” Browning responded. “Maybe when I talk to the media it seems a little different than when I’m on the field.”
Maybe a lot different.
But Browning and Gaskin have been around each other so often these past four years that UW right tackle Kaleb McGary said he’s seen both of their personalities seem to rub a little onto the other, and not just because neither seems like they’d be star football players by just their physical appearances – Gaskin is 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, Browning 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
But Gaskin has developed as more of a vocal leader because of Browning, and Browning has grown because of Gaskin.
“He’s gotten better,” McGary said of Browning. “When he first got here, it was a little weird, I would say. But he’s gotten better as time has gone on. He holds people to a standard and he’s pretty good about it, but he was new here and a lot of us were new, quite frankly.
“None of us had much experience and as you progress and get older things change and you change and that’s what it’s been with Jake. He holds people to a standard and that makes some people uncomfortable.”
McGary paused to chuckle.
“Oh well, man,” he continued. “There’s a standard that people will be held to here.”
Not that Gaskin isn’t prone to arguing, either.
Browning said that’s about all Gaskin does.
“Myles is quiet in the media, but in the locker room I don’t think there’s any time of the day when he isn’t in an argument or wrestling someone or something like that,” Browning said. “Not like being confrontational, but he’s just around guys arguing a lot. Him and Salvon (Ahmed) are always arguing about something. There’s always something for him to argue about.”
But you know how close-knit Browning and Gaskin are by the fact that they can argue with each other and not take it personally. Besides, if Gaskin had taken their relationship the wrong way he had an easy out and a lot of money to gain by heading for the NFL.
“Jake is more of a leader this year and I didn’t think that was possible,” Gaskin said. “But he’s grown even further into a leader, which is very impressive to me. He connects with people you wouldn’t think he would connect with as much as he does. He’s able to call guys out and people don’t take it personally. Even when I was a young dude and a freshman, I know he’s the starting quarterback, but you’re not going to talk to me like that.
“But a lot of guys take what he says and listen because you know he’s trying to make their game better. And I look up to him in that aspect in that he can talk to guys and get them going and get them to push themselves and stuff like that, and that’s very important as a quarterback and as one of the leaders of this team.”
Four years ago Browning had set national high school records with 16,775 career passing yards at Folsom, and now he’s 1,116 yards away from passing Cody Pickett’s 10,220 career passing yards for most in UW history.
Four years after Gaskin and O’Dea lost to Lincoln in the high school state quarterfinals, he’s now 51 yards shy of Napolean Kaufman’s 4,106 career rushing yards for most in UW history.
Now can they lead UW over Auburn on Saturday in maybe it’s biggest season opener ever?
“We’ve grown a lot,” Browning said. “Our freshman year we were just kind of struggling together and trying to figure everything out. Now everybody talks about me and Myles and Trey (Adams), but we got a lot of guys on this team who have been through the lows of the lows and experienced some of the highs of the highs. So we’re really excited for this last year together and it’s a pretty special group.”