GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kyle Trask never once wavered in his belief that one day he would get his chance to start at Florida.
When that day came on Saturday against Tennessee, he put together a career day that showed major promise for a Gators team that has its toughest stretch of games to come. Trask threw for 293 yards in the 34-3 win, the highest single-game total for a Florida player since Austin Appleby had 296 yards at Tennessee on Sept. 24, 2016.
Trask went 20-of-28 with two touchdowns and two interceptions, becoming the first Florida quarterback to throw for more than 290 yards in less than 30 attempts since John Brantley in 2011.
What made his performance all the more remarkable? It was his first start since his freshman year in high school, nearly seven years ago.
Trask didn’t lose the starting job at Manvel (Texas) for a lack of talent. He just happened to be in the same class as D’Eriq King, who now starts at Houston. Manvel ran an offensive system more suited for a dual-threat quarterback like King. But former Manvel coach Kirk Martin made sure to get Trask into games whenever possible. Even though Trask wasn’t a starter, he still got his opportunity to make plays and build a highlight tape. Florida was the first Power 5 school to offer him, and he never wavered in his commitment, signing in 2016 — the same class as Feleipe Franks.
“I’ve been waiting for my number to get called, and I knew I was going to be ready when my number was called,” Trask said.
Florida coach Dan Mullen said he was not surprised with the way Trask led the Gators to a comeback win last week against Kentucky in relief of the injured Franks, out for the season with a dislocated ankle. And he was not surprised with Trask this week, either.
“I thought he was relaxed,” Mullen said. “You never know. He hasn’t been in that situation in a long time. I was always joking with him, make sure you’re having fun. You prepared for this. If you’re really nervous, we can fix the nervous problem. Go out there, throw a bunch of picks and play terrible and you won’t be nervous because you won’t play anymore. He prepared the right way. He’s been preparing the right way. And so he got his opportunity, and it’s what I would have expected.”
Trask, wearing the No. 11 that Steve Spurrier wore en route to his Heisman Trophy winning season in 1966, led a nearly perfect opening touchdown drive — with Spurrier and the 1994 Florida SEC championship team watching from the sideline.
He was not perfect — he lost a fumble and threw two interceptions — but Mullen believes the mistakes are correctable. On both interceptions, Trask told Mullen he saw what the defense was doing, but he thought he could squeeze the ball into the tight windows.
In the huddle, teammates said Trask was no different than the player they watched come ready to practice day after day, week after week, waiting for his chance.
“It’s like a movie,” said receiver Trevon Grimes. “He’s been through so much and had to overcome so much adversity, but he’s still strong and shows why he is who he is today.”
Trask has said repeatedly he never once considered entering the transfer portal. He came closest to starting last season after playing well in relief of Franks against Missouri, but a foot injury after the game ended that chance. Franks took command of the job, but even then, Trask never thought about leaving.
“I get asked that question a lot because the transfer portal is a huge thing, and is still a huge thing but this is a top 10 academic university, and I have great friends, great teammates here. I never wanted to leave one time,” Trask said.
That decision is paying off for both Trask and the Gators. Florida plays Towson next week before entering the most crucial stretch of the season in October, with games against Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia.
“He’s played a bunch, came in and made big plays,” Mullen said. “When his number was called, he was ready to go. He’s done that since the day I got here.”
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