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Kyle Trask hopes to become Florida's fourth Heisman Trophy winner

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, left, is one of four finalist for the 2020 Heisman Trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football.

Kyle Trask’s final game as a Gator  — a 55-20 loss to Oklahoma — doesn’t define his legacy at Florida, but it should. 

The two-star recruit turned Heisman Trophy finalist will be remembered for setting single-season school records in passing yards (4,283) and touchdowns (43), marks that rank second and third, respectively, in SEC history. 

Heisman Trophy

What: The ceremony will be held virtually with finalists appearing via satellite. It is the first time in the modern era that there will not be an in-person ceremony.

Who: The four finalists are Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Alabama QB Mac Jones and WR DeVonta Smith.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

TV: ESPN

“Stats are cool,” Trask said this season, “but they don’t always win games.”

His career, however, is bigger than wins and losses, and can’t be summed up by statistics. 

Trask’s story is one in a million, defined by his patience, leadership and loyalty more than touchdowns or records. Those qualities were on full display — one last time — in the Cotton Bowl last week. 

Trask never considered not playing against Oklahoma, even after his top three receiving targets decided to opt out for the NFL. Trask had his own draft stock to consider, which was underscored for him the night before the game. 

The quarterback he famously played behind in high school, D’Eriq King, suffered a torn ACL in Miami’s bowl game. Just over 24 hours later, Trask was still taking the field for the Gators. 

Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes became the second UF trio in school history to all have at least nine receiving touchdowns in a season (the other was 1996). Their absences was the equivalent of taking Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard and Jacquez Green out of the lineup for former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel. 

And with Jacob Copeland — the team’s leading receiver in yards per catch — testing positive for COVID-19, Trask was down four pass catchers who combined for 174 catches for 2,778 yards and 34 touchdowns. 

“It obviously was a little more challenging,” Trask said of playing without that production. “You think about it, you've got a whole offseason to get timing down with that group of guys. And since we had so many opt-outs, we only had about two or three days of practice to get the timing down with the next guys up. 

“That's not making excuses or anything, but that's just the amount of work that goes into this. You don't just flip a switch and you end up in the end zone. It takes a lot of work to get there.”

For the first time in his two years as a starter, Trask didn’t score once and three threw interceptions in a game. He also posted career lows for passing yards (158 yards) and quarterback rating (21.6). 

Despite the results, Trask had no regrets. 

“Obviously it’s difficult,” he said, “But at the same time, you've got to look at the big picture. … It's just been a wild ride, and I've enjoyed every second of it. This isn't the way you want to go out, but when I look back on all the memories and friendships I made here, it’s all worth it.”

Perhaps more admirable than Trask’s decision to play was his reaction to being benched. At halftime, Florida coach Dan Mullen told Trask he would let him play the first series and then go from there.

After the offense went four plays and out, Mullen decided to insert backup quarterback Emory Jones and start building for the future. Trask took it like a pro, but wasn’t thrilled about the move either. 

“To share with you, Kyle, he wanted to play. It says a lot about him,” Mullen said of Trask’s reaction. “I don’t want to underplay what an amazing year and what an amazing career he has had. I was here with Tim Tebow, an unbelievable career. 

“But Tim Tebow played, won a national championship as a freshman, Heisman as a sophomore, played a lot right from day one. Kyle Trask had an unbelievable career because of the adversities he overcame, the character he had to get to where he is. Boy, that is special.”

How special? 

After getting pulled in his final game — the worst of his career — Trask didn’t go sit on the bench and sulk with his head down. He stayed engaged in a blowout loss, signaling plays for Jones and giving him advice on the sideline between drives. 

When Anthony Richardson threw a touchdown late in the game, Trask sprinted onto the field and was the first player to celebrate with the freshman quarterback. 

Those are the little things from Trask that leave a big impression on NFL personnel, and even opposing coaches. 

“Kyle Trask has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “I told him after the game, I know this is my profession but, also, as just a fan of college football, I very much appreciate him for what he did in high school, hanging through it when a lot of other people would have left. 

“What he did playing in this game, even though he’s got a really bright future ahead of him. I very, very much appreciate it. I hope college football can keep people like Kyle Trask involved. And all the respect in the world for him.”