Updated: Apr 17
Buddy Martin Blog
While we’re sitting around waiting for The Coronavirus to get the hell out of here so we can move on with rebuilding our lives from the devastation of death, pain and sickness that has afflicted this world, we ought to take a minute and focus on how to make things better when life returns to near normal.
What else can we do except pray, hope, dream, stay home and wash our hands? But how much longer can we roll the dice on when “normal” will return and whether or not there will be a football season?
My wife and I have been riding out five weeks of Self Quarantine, and I have continued to write for and edit GatorBait Magazine, call to check on friends and hang out a little on social media. I have continued a dialogue with many Gator fans while broadcasting the online digital Buddy Martin Show Monday through Thursday night. And inevitably finding myself day-dreaming about these topics:
1. College football overhaul. Now is the time for college football to make the hard choices about the size of the playoffs, weed out some of the 130 FBS schools (maybe to 100) and expand the playoffs. Do it right now, not after the contract runs out in six years.
2. More and more, how embracing the traditions of CFB on various campuses has brought deeper meaning and appreciation of the game, which underscores the unique difference between college and pro. Why not emphasize it more and utilize it to attract and bring alumni back to campuses from behind their 58-inch TV screens on Saturday?
3. Finally, wake up the media and fans to some of the story lines that may not be as sexy on social media, instead of fanning the flames of controversy to get more online hits? It’s OK to salute the champions and celebrate the winners, but give us the backstories of unsung and unlikely heroes whose contributions to the game need spotlighting more often. Like the story of Florida’s Kyle Trask.
GATORBAIT FILE PHOTO
Every coach who has ever exhorted his players to be patient, wait their turn and “be ready” when called upon should invoke a Kyle Trask commemoration. I
believe that speaks to the issue of “character” which coaches love to reference.
This even-handed, unselfish, highly-tolerant demeanor of Trask is the stuff team camaraderie is born of and it paid huge dividends for Dan Mullen when his starting quarterback went down. All coaches should bottle it for the future.
I did a little checking on Trasks’ background, asking sources if Kyle had ever deviated from that magnanimous Good Dude norm. Nobody could remember him going off script, even while being exiled to the bench. Once Kyle did get temporarily dejected for a day, when he wasn’t invited back to the second round of the Elite 11 in Texas. The reason? Only scholarship players were invited and Kyle hadn’t been offered yet by Doug Nussmeier and Jim McElwain. He soon got over it.
A “gym rat” who feeds off the joy of football and the chance to compete, Trask snapped back by throwing, throwing, throwing -- either through the tire in the back yard or with friends, former teammates at Manvel High School in Manvel, Texas (among them QB D’Eriq King) and his forever faithful go-to guy, brother Haden. When they would drive trips with their dad Michael and stop for gas, the brothers would hit the asphalt for a game of pitch-and-catch.
Blessed by the number of snaps he was allowed to take with the No. 1 unit – it’s how both assistant coach Brian Johnson and Mullen run their “quarterback room” – Trask was standing by on ready that night when Franks went down and they handed him the ball. And the keys.
Talk about coming into a pressurized situation, on the road vs. an SEC opponent, down by 11 points, and driving the team in for a touchdown with a classic option pitch to Lamical Perine, leading Florida to a huge win that would result in the Gators’ first 11-win season since 2012 … the word for it is “epic” I believe.
I don’t know what the big-boy SEC media was watching that night but they must not have had their TVs tuned to ESPN to see Trask outscore the Wildcats 19-0 as the Gators pulled off the 29-21 victory in Lexington. The Kyle Trask Era had begun. A week later against Tennessee, in his first start since he was a freshman at Manvel, Trask completed 20x28 for two touchdowns and it was on.
While I don’t want to make it sound Tim Tebow-like or suggest that they add a fourth statue out front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium yet, it’s worth remembering that remarkable performance. What amazes me is how some so-called “experts” in the media continue to have amnesia about the numbers Trask posted in 2019 and the brilliant way he played, throwing for just under 3,000 yards passing for 70 percent average and 25 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, no matter when they play CFB again, Kyle Trask will be a story. Finally, he is beginning to emerge in the minds of media folks. I recently asked a group of guests on The Buddy Martin Show to name their top All-SEC preseason quarterback. It was 100 percent Trask, either No. 1 or maybe 1A.
“A near-perfect teammate,” said Steve Spurrier.
“Kyle is my pick for pre-season All-SEC quarterback,” said Laura Rutledge of ESPN (she added four more also-rans). “He’s a guy you can count on to take care of the football. Secondly, he’s super talented. His story is so good, and what he did probably deserves some kind of plaque or recognition. But aside from that he’s really good!”
I thought it may be a reach to start now on the Kyle Trask-for-Heisman movement but after talking to one of the Heisman honchos, maybe not.
“He’s going to be on the Heisman Watch list,” said Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, state chairman of the Heisman Trophy Committee. “And he’s going to be the main guy on one of the main teams.”
So if there IS a football season in 2020, it’s and going to be fun to see if the national limelight shines on the Gators and the Accidental Hero. It seems so long ago that we feel like pinching ourselves for a reality checkup.
Without knowing what the health projections are for this world, it’s tough to isolate on something as small as sports, although many of us will be crawling the walls by Labor Day if there’s not at least a shot of even an abbreviated schedule.
I’m already on record as suggesting that college football needs to be condensed either way.
More and more I see CFB being a made-for-TV game and even more critical need for skinnying up the FBS to about 80 teams with a 10-game Power Five-Only schedule and a 16-team playoff with eight major-revenue games to offset some of the red ink. As Dr. Tony Fauci says, there CAN be football but without many — or ANY — crowds.
Frankly, I don’t think there is any way there WON’T be some kind of college football in 2020-21, even if it’s in the spring. For those people who wonder how basketball can be played at the same time as football? Weeknights for hoops, weekends for football.
It’s time for mother to re-invent out of necessity. And to continue on with the Kyle Trask story.
GATORBAIT FILE PHOTO