• Ainslie Lee

Bubba Believed In Florida Gators QB Kyle Trask. Will NFL GMs?

What we all know now, Bubba knew long ago.

And while Bubba Ennis doesn’t carry the title of “college scout”, “college football analyst” or even “coach”, he does carry the title of “former quarterback”.

Ennis, who played quarterback for Buchholz High School in Gainesville, has seen good quarterback play and bad quarterback play within the orange-painted walls of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

And a warm Friday evening in July of 2015 was no different.

Ennis had decided to attend Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp, an opportunity for high school recruits to showcase their skillset to the Gators’ coaching staff.

At the quarterback station, all eyes were on Jake Allen, the 6-foot-1 signal caller from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Allen had already committed to Jim McElwain and the Florida Gators.

Meanwhile, Ennis’ had his eyes glued to the blonde and, at that time, lanky teenager with the number 351 printed across his chest.

Courtesy of Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel

“He kinda stole the show that night,” Ennis recalls. “He just had a frame that was kinda Tebow-esque. He was what, 6-foot-2… 6-foot-3, 211 pounds. So he had that nice frame and it just kinda brought back some memories of the Tebow Time.”

The high school ball player had made the eastern-bound trip from Manvel, Texas — a town just south of Houston, which just 10,000 people called home.

By now, many of us know the history of the lanky teenager out of the Lone Star State. But at the time, many in his home state knew very little about him. Much less those across the country.

His name is Kyle Trask. And he rarely saw the field during his high school years, Ennis learned.

“The reason he didn’t start was because he had D’Eriq King, who fit the offense better,” Ennis said of Trask’s high school roadblock. “It wasn’t because he was a better quarterback, he just fit that offense better. And being a former quarterback, I kinda understand that a little bit.”

Trask was a four-year varsity football player for the Manvel High School Mavericks. He went 4-for-5 in passing as a freshman and 19-for-24 as a sophomore.

As an upperclassman, Trask’s contributions grew to the tune of 48-for-68 and 47-for-64 in his junior and senior years. By the time the 3-star recruit left Manvel, he had thrown for over 1,800 yards, issued 17 touchdown passes and wasn’t intercepted once.

Meanwhile, King, who now plays for the Miami Hurricanes after his early stint with the Houston Cougars, tallied over 8,700 passing yards at Manvel, notched 126 touchdown passes and tossed 16 interceptions.

“I started doing some more research on it,” Ennis said.

Years later, Ennis’ memory is a bit blurred, but he believes Trask played every fourth series for the Mavericks.

“So when people look at his film, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s back-up minutes,’,” Ennis said. “But according to his coach, every fourth or fifth series was Kyle’s no matter what the game was, no matter what the score was in the game, he gave that to Kyle because he trusted Kyle and Kyle’s talent.”

Back when practices were still open to the public, Ennis would make the short trip to the practice field to catch some of the action.

There, he saw a lot of the same promise out of Trask that he saw during Friday Night Lights.

“I could see the same thing,” Ennis said. “He was smart, he was confident in where he wanted to go. To move into a new system and to be that confident back there throwing the ball that comfortable, just let me know that he knew what he was looking at.

Confidence seems to be the key when talking about Trask.

After playing behind a starter for four years in high school, Trask’s action in college was equally as slow rolling.

Trask spent three years playing behind Feleipe Franks, once again being overlooked by the town he called home.

Considering Florida’s history at the quarterback position, no one was surprised when Franks became the whipping post of criticism during multiple points in his career at Florida. Being the quarterback of the Florida Gators is a job everyone wants… until they have the job and learn the weight it carries.

“He’s not seeing the field,” Ennis said of Franks. “A lot of people saw that.”

According to Ennis, despite Franks’ incredible ability to throw downfield, he often overlooked the throws over the top in the middle of the field -- an area that Trask thrives in.

Franks’ turbulent career at Florida came to an end on September 14, 2019 when he dislocated his ankle at Kentucky’s Kroger Field. And with Florida trailing Kentucky by 11 points, not many were particularly thrilled that the Texan backup quarterback who hadn’t started a football game in years would be relied on.

But back in Gainesville, Bubba Ennis was eager to see if everything he saw during the camp five years earlier could translate at the college level with immense pressure applied. The Gators had fallen to the Wildcats for the first time in 31 years the season prior -- a second consecutive loss wouldn’t have served Dan Mullen and the program well.

“I hate seeing a player get hurt. Feleipe was a Gator… I always pull for Gators,” Ennis said. “But when Kyle came in, I said this is it. This is the time to show what you got. And I feel like he did that.”

Courtesy of Bubba Ennis (left)

This is where confidence comes into the equation.

Trailing by 11 points, Trask had to quickly track down his helmet when Franks went down with his gruesome injury. But after that short panic, Trask settled in well.

Trask finished the game with 9-for-13 for 126 yards and orchestrated three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

“That right there just shows you the confidence that he has,” Ennis said. “When you’ve got a quarterback who is that confident and understand the system, and his confidence in reading a defense that well, and you say, ‘Hey man, you ready to get in?’ And he says sure… That speaks volumes about where that guy can take you.”

Extra emphasis on that last part: where that guy can take you.

That’s the million dollar question now for all 32 NFL teams in the country.

Where can that guy take you?

Bubba Ennis believes he can take you pretty far.

“I’m very excited for him,” Ennis said. “I’m excited to see where he goes. I got my feelings on it. I think someone might trade up for him.”

But how far up?

If Bubba were a general manager, he’d take the former Gators’ quarterback right on the heels of Trevor Lawrence, who went No. 1 overall to Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I feel like these people are seeing who Kyle Trask really is and the ability he has and his confidence” Ennis said. “And a confident quarterback… you can tell when a guy is kinda talking trash and when he’s confident in his abilities. And the way he talks and handles himself, when you ask him about football IQ… It makes you say, ‘Hey, I want you in control.’

“He just exudes that. And I feel like people in the NFL are starting to see that.”

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