FORT LAUDERDALE — In the Atlantic Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel where two rooms set up for media access on a warm Friday morning, I asked Van Jefferson the kind of question you tend to ask at bowl games.
Give me your best Kyle Trask story. You have to have been saving a good one.
The senior wide receiver looked to his left where Trask was sitting on a podium in front of a handful of electronic tape recorders.
“He’s telling the story right now,” Jefferson said.
Not because Trask was talking. But because he is here, the starting quarterback for a 10-win team playing in a major bowl game.
“What he’s come from, what he’s overcome,” Jefferson said. “It’s awesome. He leads Florida to an Orange Bowl. It’s amazing.”
His story is more than just a guy who persevered, who fought for his dream job and made it his own. That story has been told and was being told again Friday. (And it never gets old).
It’s also the story of the most unlikely of heroes taking Florida from the quarterback wilderness that enveloped it for a decade.
It’s not just that Trask is the starting quarterback at Florida. It’s more about what he has done with the opportunity.
And how he hasn’t let that success change him as a person.
“I try to stay pretty humble about it,” he said. “That’s just my personality. I’m not going to get caught up in all the — all the attention and things like that, the outside noise and hype.
“I try to stay focused on our goal and not get caught up in all of that because if you get caught up in all of that, your performance probably won’t be the same. I’m trying to just go one week at a time with it.”
He has one more job to do, Monday night against Virginia. Then, it’s on to getting ready for the next season.
As this season flew by, we almost became numb to the season Trask produced. On a team that struggled to run the ball, the Gators’ fortunes were in his hands for one pressure-packed game after another.
Game after game, he produced.
And the real irony here is that Florida fans have Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, two coaches who were cast away in the purge of 2017, to thank for it.
Trask had offers from Houston Baptist, McNeese State and Lamar when Florida swooped in with an offer. He committed the next day.
“If it wasn’t for them,” he said of McElwain and Nussmeier, “I probably wouldn’t be here.”
The definition of this football season still has one more chapter, but when you go back and think of that night in Lexington, Ky., when the Gator season was on the brink of being very ordinary when Feleipe Franks was lost for the season, the story you already know gets even more amazing.
“We didn’t know who it would be, Emory (Jones) or Kyle,” Jefferson said. “We just rolled with Kyle and he won the game for us.”
In a way, he was the perfect answer for Florida’s ongoing issues at the most important position on the team. Coach Dan Mullen did a masterful job of changing the offense to fit what Trask did best and the quarterback took the reins like a seasoned pro.
He did it without flair or any semblance of a look-at-me personality.
“He’s just a low-key guy,” Jefferson said. “He doesn’t say much. He’s humble. I’m so happy for him to be here at the Orange Bowl.”
Oh, and there was one really good story about Trask that came out of Friday’s media session. It came from senior center Nick Buchanan.
“I think one of the first times I saw him, I was at one of the dorms coming in, it’s like midnight,” he said. “I see Kyle, I’m like, ‘What you doing, bro.’ He’s like, ‘I just went on like a two-mile jog.’ I’m like, ‘What? This kid is crazy.’
“It’s amazing to see that work ethic. All he does is come to work. It’s amazing to see him leading us to victory week after week.”
As it turns out, in a Twitter and Instagram world, all Florida needed at quarterback was a lunch-pail guy.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.