Had he followed the new normal in college football, Kyle Trask would not be here now, in Gainesville, getting ready to make his first start at quarterback for the Florida Gators.
No, he would be somewhere else, maybe at a smaller school, maybe somewhere closer to home. Definitely at a school where he would pretty much be guaranteed to start as a graduate transfer.
That’s what college football players, especially quarterbacks, do these days. If they’re not starting, if they’re not seeing much playing time, they toss their name in the NCAA transfer portal and search for another school where they have a better opportunity.
Coming out of last season, Trask seemed an ideal candidate to follow the new normal and leave Florida. He’d been here three years and had seen only mop up duty in just four games. And with Feleipe Franks solidly entrenched as the starter, and Emory Jones being groomed as the future starter, there appeared to be no clear path to playing time, much less starting.
That’s why in the offseason, UF coach Dan Mullen met with Trask and offered to help him get hooked up with another school if, quite understandably, he wanted to leave.
Trask’s response was, well, refreshing. And old school, for sure.
“He’s like, ‘Coach, no, I’m all in, I want to be here, I want to go win the starting job.’ I said, ‘Great,’ ” Mullen said. “My meeting with him was, ‘Do you want to be here? Do we need to help you go somewhere else?’ That’s kind of the in thing in college football.
“It’s, ‘If I’m not playing, how fast can I transfer? If I’m not going to start, I have to be in the transfer portal.’ Kyle’s not that. He’s a graduate from the University of Florida. He’s going to get a master’s degree from the University of Florida. Sees the bigger picture in life. Understands he’s being developed really well here as a quarterback and was waiting for it.”
It, of course, is the opportunity to play. It finally came for the patient and hard-working Trask in the fourth quarter in Lexington last Saturday night. And he made the most of it. Coming off the bench to replace the injured Franks, Trask ignited the Gators’ comeback victory after being down 21-10. Trask completed nine of 13 passes for 126 yards and scored the winning touchdown on a four-yard run with 4:11 to play.
“It was a pretty emotional moment for the whole team (when Franks got hurt), because he’s a great leader for us,” Trask said. “It’s also very hard to see a good friend of yours go down like that. At the end of the day, we
still have a game to win. It’s the next-man-up mentality.
“The coaches do a great job of preparing us for these kind of
moments. This is why we come to Florida, to play in big games like
this. I was trying to take advantage of my opportunity.”
Trask said he wasn’t nervous when he suddenly found himself in the game, having to try and lead his team back. That was reflected in his play: he completed his first four passes and led the Gators to a touchdown on his first possession.
“Once you get in a game, you’re completely locked in, focused,” he said.
His composed and efficient performance has earned him his first career start, which comes Saturday against SEC rival Tennessee. He probably won’t be nervous for this opportunity, either. But he will be prepared.
Trask’s approach all along, even when he knew he probably wouldn’t see the field, has been to prepare himself for every game as if he were the starter. So, that doesn’t change this week now that he is the starter.
“He hasn’t gotten the opportunities he would want, but he just kept taking care of business, being prepared, waiting for his moment,” Mullen said. “It’s, ‘Give me an opportunity. I’ll be ready.’ That says a lot in today’s college football.
“He loves the team, loves the program, has been working really, really hard and was ready for his opportunity when his number was called. That’s kind of a throwback.
“It’s amazing that he had the character and the readiness to go prepare and be ready for that moment, and with all of the decisions he made leading up to that.”
The transfer portal has become a popular destination for players who aren’t starting or playing much, but Trask said he’s never considered putting his name in it. Leaving Florida is not an option that he’s considered. But Mullen did bring up that possibility when they met after last season.
“He was asking me where my head’s at because the portal is a big thing,” Trask said. “I told him I was 100 percent a Gator. I’m going to be ready when my number gets called.
“This is one of the best schools in the country, so I figured why leave when I have a top-10 education, friends I love dearly, a football team that’s very supportive of me. I was just preparing every day as if I was the starter, as I should be. I took advantage of the opportunity I’m given.”
The opportunity is finally here for Trask.
“I kind of just trusted my gut, this whole process,” he said. “I did what I felt
was the best for me, and I felt like all I wanted was an opportunity
to really show what I could really do.”
He made the most of his opportunity in Lexington. He’s teammates seem confident if will be more of the same Saturday in The Swamp.
“He loves his teammates. He loves this program,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “He’s been all in since day one. That’s the biggest thing for us, knowing that he loves where he’s at. Kyle is a guy that just wants to try and help his team win and be a part of something special.
“With the new transfer portal and stuff, guys up and leave and quit. It’s special for Kyle to finally get a chance to get out there and play and make the plays that he needed to and kind of get his name out there and be a big-time guy for our program on Saturday.”
Who: Tennessee (1-2, 0-0 SEC) vs. Florida (3-0, 1-0)
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850