Trask's remarkable journey began against the Wildcats
Fourteen months ago on a Saturday night in Lexington, Kentucky, in a game that had been slowly but surely slipping away, defeat seemed inevitable after starting Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks went down with a season-ending ankle injury late in the third quarter.
But there was no sense of defeat on the Gator sideline. No, there was hope there, because when coach Dan Mullen told Kyle Trask to put on his helmet and go into the game early in the fourth quarter there was confidence among the players and coaches that the junior would make something positive happen.
And he did, of course.
“When he came into the game, I knew he was ready,” tight end Kemore Gamble said. “He always worked hard. He was always in the film room. I just knew he was ready, so I wasn’t really worried about it.
“I’m not surprised (by what he did) because I’d seen him do things like before (in practice).”
What Trask did that night not only changed a game, turning a likely loss into a comeback win, it changed the direction of a career. His career.
An unknown former two-star recruit who didn’t even start in high school when he stepped onto the field that night, Trask is now one of the nation’s top college quarterbacks, a Heisman Trophy contender and a possible first-round NFL draft pick this spring.
It’s been a remarkable journey, and it started that night in Lexington, when Trask led the Gators on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to give UF an improbable 29-21 victory.
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With the Wildcats coming to The Swamp on Saturday, Trask has been reliving that special night from early last season.
"Yeah I think about it a lot, because it's a huge moment for my career,” he said. “Being a backup for all that time, it kind of is waiting on that moment where you get your opportunity and that kind of was where I got my chance to really get some meaningful reps and do something good for my team.
“So yeah, I do think about it a lot. Just kind of like my true beginnings in terms of when I finally got in the field for games. It's been a crazy journey so far. I think we're just getting started."
Trask was an instant success when he stepped onto the field that night. He completed his first four passes — 8 yards to Van Jefferson, 14 yards to Josh Hammond and 20 and 12 yards to Jefferson. Then, two plays later, Lamical Perine ran 8 yards for a touchdown after taking a late pitch from Trask to cut the deficit to 21-16 (a two-point pass attempt was incomplete).
A little later in the quarter, Trask completed a 30-yard pass to tight end Kyle Pitts to move the Gators inside the UK 10. Two plays later, he ran 4 yards for a touchdown to put UF up 22-21 with 4:11 left in the game.
The Gators sealed the game with 33 seconds to go on a 76-yard TD run by Hammond on a jet sweep.
In the fourth quarter, Trask completed 9 of 13 passes for 126 yards and was unflappable under duress. His performance, coming out of nowhere, stunned many across the country. But it did not surprise his coaches and teammates.
“Not really,” offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “He’s always performed well when he’s had an opportunity. He’s performed well at practice. He continued to prepare (even though he wasn’t the starter). He was ready for his moment.
“That’s the epitome of what you want from somebody on your team, that when their number is called they’re ready to play at a high level. Kyle was no exception to that. Injuries are a part of the game. It’s very unfortunate. But it’s also nice when guys can step in and play well despite not having any game reps.”
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Gamble said he knew way before that night in Kentucky 14 months ago that Trask had the it factor that all good quarterbacks possess and it was a matter of time before he would have a chance to show it.
“Coming in as a redshirt freshman, I knew about Feleipe and Luke Del Rio,” Gamble said. “But when I saw Kyle Trask, I was like, ‘Who is this guy? Why is he not playing?’ I always wondered why he’s not in the game and why he’s not playing.”
He’s been in the game, playing, ever since that night in Lexington. And his approach has always stayed the same. He prepares himself to play every week, then goes out and performs and produces on Saturday.
It’s the same approach he took when he wasn’t the starter. And that’s why he was able to do what he did in that win over Kentucky.
“I know I had confidence in him and what he was going to bring to the table and what he was going to be able to do,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Everybody realized we had confidence in him. He just hadn't had the opportunity to go out on the field and show it in a game situation.
“He's just shown that if you're willing to work hard, if you're willing to make sacrifices, and you're committed long-term, you don't quit, you don't give up, you don't stop chasing the dream, you see what you can accomplish. He's a great example."
Who: Kentucky (3-5) vs. No. 5 Florida (6-1)
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850