Updated: Oct 28, 2019
By KASSIDY HILL
Life is full of “what if’s.”
What if I had gone to that meeting?
What if I had said yes?
What if I’d missed that train?
Kyle Trask life’s has been a stream of what if’s. In what was far too long a cruel twist of fate, he was on the wrong side of the coin.
What if he and D’Eriq King had been just a year apart, allowing him time to start at Manvel High School?
What if any other FBS school besides Florida had offered a scholarship and given him a less crowded quarterback room and therefore greater probability to start sooner?
What if he hadn’t gotten hurt — twice — prior to his redshirt freshman season and taken the snaps that instead went to Feleipe Franks, Malik Zaire and Luke del Rio?
What if he hadn’t gotten hurt — again — prior to the South Carolina game in 2018, instead having to watch in a cast as Franks turned a corner and took full reign of the quarterback position and team?
What if Feleipe Franks hadn’t gotten hurt?
What if Kyle Trask hadn’t been pushed into a moment that would have made most men stumble but instead saw him calmly step into a role that he seemed born to play?
What if this had happened any other season, under a Dan Mullen offense that on paper Franks is more suited for but this year features a bevy of wide receivers that play into Trask’s pocket strengths?
Then he wouldn’t have come in to start the 4th quarter against Kentucky and scored 19 unanswered points to give the Gators their first league win of the season. That was the first time we truly saw the unflappable spirit of Kyle Trask.
As Feleipe Franks was carted off the field, head coach Dan Mullen went to Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones and told them both to get ready. Trask grabbed his helmet, began warming up and waited for the call from head coach Dan Mullen. As the game progressed, the situations called for Trask to remain in the game.
He began with four straight completions to Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond respectively, moving the Gators 54 yards down the field in a little over a minute. Once in the red zone, Trask showed fans his moves and proved how much he had been retaining in practice all these years, waiting for a chance to show it on the field. From the Kentucky eight-yard line, Trask ran left on an option play that had running back Lamical Perine tracking farther left for a pitch. Trask barreled forward with intentions of keeping the ball. Just before hitting the line of scrimmage, a Kentucky defender began to bring him down. He flipped the ball up to Perine and since the running back had not been a part of the play, he was uncovered and walked the eight yards into the endzone untouched.
“Yea, that was definitely improvisation,” grinned Trask at the time.
Two drives later, Trask did keep the ball on a QB power run, diving up the middle for the four-yard touchdown. By the end of the night, he had gone 9x13 for 126 yards while adding the rushing touchdown.
After the game, Mullen complimented Trask not only on his performance in a stressful one quarter situation, but in staying focused when most would have put their name in the transfer portal or at the very least, pouted.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to do what Kyle did. Not what he got on the field, we have seen that, (but) to prepare yourself. If you’re backup wide receiver, you can play 30 plays in a game, if you’re on the D-line you are going to rotate and play, if you’re a backup running back we are going to roll those guys through. If you’re Kyle’s position, ‘I got to prepare…I have to be ready for everything they are going to do and then to play. Then I have to do that next week’ and that’s hard to do. I think people — it’s a tribute to him of his mental toughness and preparedness to be ready for that opportunity.”
Then he wouldn’t have returned home the next week, back in the friendly confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, ready for his first start since he was a freshman in high school. We wouldn’t have seen him take charge of a team that easily embraced their new leader, thanks in large part to the example set by Franks on the sideline.
On the second play of the game, Trask dropped back in the pocket and waited, waited, waited until receiver Tre Grimes broke free from his defender. As the crowd audibly sucked in a breath, Trask dropped one in to Grimes for 43 yards.
He faked, and ran one to the left for eight yards then hit tight end Kyle Pitts over the middle for 19 yards for the first of his two passing touchdowns that day. Once on the sideline, Dan Mullen pulled him aside before any celebrations could commence, and went back over each play from the drive and coming away with a more confident sense in what his new starter could handle.
“I thought he did a really good job on those reads and those first few drives and managing what they were giving us,” said Mullen at the time.
“I’m on the sidelines here, going OK he’s going to go here with the ball, uh-oh, they’ve rolled it completely different than what they showed, then he goes to where he should have gone before.”
And the door cracked open just a bit more on Kyle Trask.
“There was a little bit of nerves going into any game just like anybody,” he admitted.
“Once you're preparing all week you feel confident so once you go out on the field you get locked in. You don't think about anything else. The crowd may be pretty loud but all you hear is silence when you focus on the task at hand.”
We wouldn’t have seen him realize just how much this moment and opportunity means while laying on the field after a sack, hurt and worried that his chance was over before it really started.
“I had a million things going through my mind, to be honest, like I said I'm just so grateful that it turned out to be a lot better than it could have been,” he admitted after the game.
And then feel the elation of a return, the crowd screaming as he jogged back out to the sidelines.
"It was an amazing feeling. Our fans here are the best in the country, and to go back out there and finish the game for our team, it felt really good.”
Then we wouldn’t have seen how Kyle Trask handled true adversity for the first time, perhaps overthinking himself too much in the Top 10 matchup against Auburn, letting himself question decisions and losing three fumbles in the process. Through the win, he exhibited perhaps the most important part of being a team’s leader; being the leader of an actual team.
“(Auburn is) a tough team from top to bottom, and nothing was given to us in this game. It was all earned. That just comes from being resilient. This is one of the most resilient teams I've ever been a part of. That's just a result of us being dialed in throughout the week in preparation and that shows on Saturdays.”
There wouldn’t have been a bounce back from that game with arguably one of the most impressive performances from a Florida quarterback in years. On a Louisiana Saturday night in Death Valley, the imperturbable Trask stepped into the most intimidating venue in college football, looked across the sideline to a Heisman front runner in Joe Burrow, saw what the most currently prolific offense in college football was doing and said “I can match that.”
Unfortunately for Kyle Trask performance, the Gators defense and team as a whole couldn’t quite match the No. 2 team in the country, but Trask walked out of the stadium with a stat line that read 23x39 for 310 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. It was the latter that was the only — proving costly — mistake in a game that was such a near flawless offensive performance from both sides that it was always going to come down to who made the one slip up, no matter how insignificant.
Kyle Trask became the first quarterback Tim Tebow (Oct. 20, 2007 at No. 8 Kentucky) to throw for three touchdowns on the road against an AP top-10 team and did so with 310 yards passing. Trask became a runner at times, showed marked improvement with pocket awareness and pressure, and made smart decisions within a genius game plan from Dan Mullen.
But he also walked out with eyes around the country attuned to what he was now doing.
Mullen said after the game though that he didn't learn anything about Trask — or Jones — that he didn’t already know.
“I thought he did a really good job. I thought Emory did a really good job, came in and gave a really good mix-up for us. Both those guys. I don't have a whole lot to complain with their performances tonight. I thought they handled the environment. It was an amazing environment. That's what makes the SEC so special. Everyone was worried: was the environment going to get to our young offensive line and get to our quarterbacks without much experience? It didn't. They handled it in every situation.”
As he left the field, Perine pulled Trask off to the side and gave him a message.
“He said they’ve got my back and I have their back. It sucks to lose, but we’re always there for each other and trying to make us better.”
We wouldn't have seen Kyle Trask begin to embrace the spotlight that comes with being quarterback at the University of Florida; not in any sort of pretentious or assuming way. He’s not capable of that. But instead still with the steady and calm personality that has brought him to this point and helped him flourish, accepting the attention that naturally comes with the role.
He left South Carolina with a 38-27 win and a return to the quick decision making that won a game in Kentucky, while adding the pocket awareness that was learned from the Auburn win and building on the ice vein performance from LSU, needed in the Columbia tropical storm.
With a 21-33 for 200 yards and four touchdown performance, he became the first Gator since Tim Tebow to throw four touchdown passes in a road game. (Tebow again with the Kentucky game from 2007).
Afterwards, Trask answered questions from local media with a smile that came much easier, a laugh that echoed a little louder and a greater assurance to each question answered. He joked about the moment he shushed Gamecocks fans, a throwback to last season's win against South Carolina when Feleipe Franks shushed the crowd and turned the corner to become the quarterback Florida needed. He tweeted of the shhssing, “That was for Franks.”
It's fitting that it was against South Carolina that Trask did the same. Because on Saturday, he became a complete quarterback, no questions asked.
What if Kyle Trask was not currently the starting quarterback for the No. 7 Florida Gators?
The answer doesn’t matter, only that he is and he’s making the moment his own.