Barring injury or disaster, former Gators star Kyle Trask will begin his Bucs career as a backup to Tom Brady.
That’s okay. Trask is used to life on the bench. He did it in high school and college in a story that’s familiar to Florida followers but new to Tampa Bay fans who weren’t watching Friday’s No. 64 overall pick on Saturdays.
Trask had the misfortune of being stuck at Manvel (Texas) High behind another elite talent — D’Eriq King, now a star at the University of Miami. King won the starting job because his dynamic athleticism was a better fit for his team’s offense.
Trask could have transferred, but he stuck around (a recurring theme). He was so talented that his high school coach forced him into every game, usually on the third and seventh series. Over his final two prep years, Trask threw 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Because Trask was a backup, he was easy to overlook. His coaches showed him off to recruiters by asking him to throw 22-yard comeback routes to the opposite side of the field, just to show off his arm strength. Eventually, the Gators bit on the three-star prospect, who wasn’t even among the top 2,000 recruits in the 2016 class. His other offers: Houston Baptist, Lamar and McNeese State.
Trask stayed on the bench at UF, too. Three different quarterbacks started in front of him before Feleipe Franks earned the job. Franks’ struggles against Missouri in 2018 seemingly reopened the competition, but Trask broke his foot in practice the following week, ending his starting hopes.
In the era of the transfer portal, Trask was a rarity; he never considered transferring. Why would he? He was happy at UF and on track to graduate from a great school. Leaving was never a serious consideration.
Trask’s patience finally paid off in 2019. With UF trailing by 11 in the second half at Kentucky, Franks suffered a severe ankle injury. Trask was ready. He calmly led the Gators back and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:11 left in a 29-21 victory. His days as a backup were over.
Not that Trask ever considered himself a backup. He always prepared like a starter and peppered coaches with questions. Expect him to do the same in Tampa as he learns behind Brady for a year or two.
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Though Trask’s comeback at Kentucky served as his breakthrough performance, one of his most memorable throws came in his first start the next week, against Tennessee.
As Trask dropped back for his first pass of the game, he started to scramble. But he kept his eyes downfield, looking for a receiver. He found one: his third read, Trevon Grimes (who will likely get drafted Saturday) for a 43-yard pass.
It was the perfect encapsulation of Trask — the abilities that made him an early-round pick and the concern that kept him out of the first round. His pass was fine, but it lacked the zip that would have resulted in a touchdown.
Then again, the simple fact that Trask made the throw at all was impressive. His UF predecessor probably would have tucked the ball and rushed. Instead, Trask stayed patient and, as usual, looked unflappable. He went through his progressions, found the right target and completed a pass that set up a score.
Trask remained efficient the rest of his career, which is why coach Dan Mullen regularly praised his game management skills (in a good way).
Trask threw for almost 3,000 yards in 2019 and led the Gators to the Orange Bowl. Last season, he was even better. The first UF quarterback to wear No. 11 since the legendary Steve Spurrier, Trask set single-season records in passing touchdowns (43) and yards (4,283). He completed 68.9 percent of his passes (11th nationally), took UF to its third consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting.
His impressive story of persistence will continue two hours south of Gainesville, with a familiar role as a backup. But given Trask’s track record, don’t expect him to keep that title forever.
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