UW notebook: Recalling former Husky Curtis Gaspard’s improbable path from New Orleans to Seattle

SEATTLE – In the Washington football team’s 134 seasons, there have been two documented lettermen from the state of Louisiana:

 

Cornerback William Reed (1980) and wide receiver Curtis Gaspard (1990-91).

 

Sure, there have been other outliers from Louisiana, such as linebacker (and Baton Rouge product) Bradly Roussel,

who signed with Washington in 2008 and left a year later following a redshirt season.

Curley Reed – a Lake Charles prospect – joined as a four-star corner last offseason, but the freshman has yet to appear in a game this fall.

 

Point being: There is no recruiting pipeline between New Orleans – where No. 2 Washington (13-0) will meet No. 3 Texas (12-1) in the Sugar Bowl on Monday – and Seattle.

 

Which makes Gaspard’s path all the more improbable.

 

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver didn’t play football in his senior season at New Orleans McDonogh 35 Senior High.

He only became aware of UW after staying with his brother, who was stationed in Tacoma while in the military, for a life-altering summer at age 13.

 

“I still say if that had never happened, I would never have visited Seattle,” Gaspard said.

“It would have never been on the map at all.”

 

Even after enrolling and arriving, Gaspard was not on Washington’s map.

He spent his freshman year as a “regular student,” before friends convinced him to try out for the football team.

 

“I was just kind of challenged: ‘You should try out. You should do it.’ A scholarship wasn’t even on my mind,” Gaspard said.

“Once you get there, your competitive juices start to kick in and you see, ‘Hey, these guys are technically faster or stronger than I am.

But how can I close that gap?’ For me, I wasn’t able to go home to New Orleans all the time.

I would stay in Seattle during spring break.

I would stay during the summer, and it was during those times when I was constantly closing the gap.”

 

So much so that Gaspard earned a scholarship prior to his junior season.

He caught five passes for 44 yards in 11 games as a junior in 1990,

before adding 18 catches and 201 yards while helping the Huskies to a national title in 1991.

 

“I never in a hundred years thought I would have ended up playing with all-time greats at the University of Washington,” Gaspard said.

 

Gaspard never needed a pipeline from New Orleans to Seattle.

 

He made it just the same.

 

“We won a national championship (in 1991) and I remember us going to the state capitol.

We were sitting in this room; I guess it was the senate chambers.

It was a select group of us,” he said. “There was a senator up there that was talking,

and it was a little boring but I remember trying to pay attention.

Then I remember him saying, ‘I just got off the phone with my wife,

and I told her my favorite player is here. We call him our distant cousin.’

Then he mentioned my name. I was like, ‘This is a senator!’ Turns out it was senator Marc Gaspard.

 

“After that meeting he brought me in the chambers and we took pictures and talked and exchanged numbers.

So for me to go from this kid from New Orleans who walked on to the University of Washington and all of that to this,

it was that part that was so memorable. Because you never know who’s watching.”

 

When the Huskies kick off from his hometown on Monday, Gaspard will be watching from afar.

 

Since 1995, he has lived and worked in the Bay Area – first while owning a technology recruiting and consulting firm,

before transitioning to commercial real estate and investments.

He attended UW’s road game at Stanford alongside former teammates Napoleon Kauffman, Dave Hoffmann and Mark Bruener.

 

“The relationships built during that time exist to this day” said Gaspard, who still has family members in New Orleans and last visited in April.

“When they were playing in the Pac-12 championship

(against Oregon), I’m on a text chain with Greg Lewis, Darius Turner, Damon Mack, Mario Bailey, Eteka Huckaby. There’s a large group of us.”

 

There will be a larger group in Houston if Washington wins.

 

“If they make it to Houston (for the national championship game), God willing, I’m going to try to make it to that,” Gaspard said.

 

Schmidt’s eventual exit

Last week, UW edge coach and special teams coordinator Eric Schmidt was announced as the next defensive coordinator at San Diego State.

 

Schmidt – who also served as Kalen DeBoer’s defensive line coach for two seasons at Fresno State (2020-21) – credited UW’s ongoing success for opening individual doors.

 

“You look at this place, and it’s special,” said Schmidt, who was previously the defensive coordinator at North Dakota from 2014 to 2019.

“We’ve been able to have some success here in all phases,

and that’s a credit to the other coaches here, the players, the whole organization.

Kalen’s done a great job here and people want to probably get in here and crack the code of why they’re

successful and things like that. We’ve been able to (win), and it leads to opportunities.

 

“So I’m just really appreciative of all the other assistant coaches, the players here. That success is what’s led to other opportunities.”

 

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And yet, Schmidt’s next chapter will have to wait. He decided to remain at UW through the entirety of the College Football Playoff.

 

“That was something that was important to me,” Schmidt said.

“I talked to coach DeBoer about it, and I’m grateful that he’s allowing me to do that. We’ve been together (as a team).

It’s been a long time since Aug. 1 when we got out here (and practices began), and guys have been out here battling.

You get to this point now and you want to make sure we finish it.”

 

UW adds transfer TE Watson

Tre Watson knows what it’s like to play for DeBoer and UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.

 

Soon, he’ll do so again.

 

On Sunday, Watson – a 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight from Fresno State – announced a transfer to Washington, over offers from Houston, Texas A&M, Cal, UCLA and West Virginia.

The Rio Rancho, New Mexico, product has a single season of remaining eligibility.

 

But given the impending departures of sixth-year seniors Devin Culp and Jack Westover, this is an important addition for UW.

Watson (who played for both DeBoer and Grubb in 2021) recorded 38 catches for 378 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 13 games last fall.

 

The Huskies are set to have other scholarship tight ends in 2024 – senior Quentin Moore,

junior Josh Cuevas, redshirt sophomore Ryan Otton and true freshman Decker DeGraaf.

But given that he’s played in UW’s system, Watson should quickly get up to speed.

 

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