Florida quarterback Kyle Trask lit Ole Miss aflame on Saturday. The senior signal caller completed 30-of-42 passes for 416 yards with with six touchdowns, tying the SEC record for the most scoring strikes in a conference game while leading the Gators to a 51-35 win.
Coming off a season in which he threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns and propelled Florida to 11 wins, Trask's season-opening performance validated the offseason storyline that he could be the 2020 version of Joe Burrow. (The record Trask tied on Saturday? Burrow's.)
Burrow is, of course, football's favorite rags-to-riches story. A lightly recruited local kid who signed with Ohio State, Burrow bet on himself by transferring to LSU, had a good-not-great junior season before launching into the stratosphere as a senior, winning the Heisman Trophy, a national championship and becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft. It's the latest version of a tale we've told ourselves for thousands of years, that greatness lies in even the most ordinary of all of us if we're just willing to find it.
Burrow's story is so magical, so beloved that ESPN even created the Burrow Index, ranking QBs by how much their story compares to Burrow's. Trask ranks No. 2, his performance in the Ole Miss win scoring at an 89% Burrow.
The comparisons are obvious and also a compliment to Trask, but I don't think they actually go far enough.
If you really dig deep into the Kyle Trask story, you'll find his story is more Joe Burrow than even Burrow's himself.
Consider the following:
-- Trask wasn't even a full time starter in high school. Playing at Manvel High School in the Houston area, Trask had the misfortune of splitting time with a fellow quarterback by the name of D'Eriq King. Even saying he "split time" is generous to Trask; King was the starter and Trask the backup.
King racked up more than 13,000 scrimmage yards while collecting District MVP honors as a sophomore, junior and senior, while Trask accumulated all of 132 pass attempts as a junior and a senior. Even his Florida bio says Trask "helped" Manvel to an 11-3 record as a senior.
Still, Trask's measurables (6-foot-4 with a live arm) and his performance in camps garnered him a 3-star ranking as the Class of 2016's 92nd-ranked pro-style quarterback, according to 247Sports.
-- Realistically speaking, Florida coaches never expected Trask to start. Trask signed with Florida as its second quarterback in its 2016 class. Though Trask committed first -- his other reported offers at the time: Houston Baptist, Lamar and McNeese -- Jim McElwain's staff viewed Feliepe Franks as the future at the position.
Franks was a 4-star recruit, the No. 5 pro-style passer in the 2016 class. Trask was the No. 25-ranked recruit in a 25-man class.
At that time, Florida was fresh off a surprise trip to the SEC Championship in McElwain's first season, despite inconsistent play from the quarterback position. Will Grier had flashed as a freshman in 2015 before he was popped with a yearlong suspension for ingesting a ban substance and later transferred. Treon Harris played most of the snaps in '15, and Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio split time in 2016.
Clearly, the stage was set for Franks to take the reins of the offense as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
-- Then, a curveball. McElwain was fired seven games into the 2017 season. Franks still received most of the QB1 snaps in that redshirt freshman season, and retained the job when Dan Mullen's staff took over in 2018.
Trask played well enough in camp to win the QB2 job, but his hold on that job was tenuous at best.
Mullen signed Emory Jones in the Class of 2018, flipping him from Ohio State on Signing Day in December of 2017 -- the crown jewel of that all-important debut class. The 4-star from Franklin, Ga., was set to be the franchise quarterback for the new era of Florida football, and the new staff wasn't shy about its intentions.
While Trask registered four appearances as the "backup," Jones played in just as many. Jones's numbers were actually better when comparing two admittedly small sample sizes; he compiled a 182 rating over his 16 passes, while Trask scored a 140 rating over 22 throws.
-- Finally, an opportunity. Franks again entered 2019 as Florida's starter, playing every one of the meaningful snaps at quarterback until, late in the third quarter of Florida's third game, he was brought down with a nasty ankle injury. Though no one knew it then, that unsuccessful 4th-and-1 scramble would be his final snap as a Gator.
Florida trailed Kentucky 21-10 at the time. Mullen had a real decision to make. His team trailed by 11, on the road, at night, with 14:49 to play. He picked Trask.
Let's stop for a minute to consider how the average person might feel in Trask's shoes at that moment.
He was in his fourth year in the program and had thrown, to that point, all of 27 passes as a college football player. Winding the clock back further, we're talking about a redshirt junior (ever a good student, Trask was actually in graduate school by that point) who hadn't been a full-time starting quarterback since... his freshman year of high school? Maybe earlier?
How much confidence do you have to have in yourself to maintain your belief that you belong on the field when you've spent most of seven straight seasons watching other people play?
We can all admit there's zero shame in backing up players like D'Eriq King and Feliepe Franks, but can we also admit the average person would develop a crippling case of Impostor Syndrome when you go that long without regularly playing? Would you or I even consider ourselves a football player when we spent most of our Friday nights and almost all of our Saturday afternoons standing on the sidelines?
Furthermore, how strong does your character have to be to keep yourself ready -- physically and mentally -- for that long? How strong does the competitive fire have to burn in your bones to keep yourself ready, week after week after week, to believe that your moment really is coming? To resist the temptation to admit to yourself, "I'm a backup QB at an SEC school, I'll leave this place with my Bachelor's and Master's degrees paid for. This is as good as it's going to get for me, and that's okay."
When Mullen looked Trask in the eyes and told him it was on him to pull that Kentucky game out of the fire, the average person might've walked on that field accompanied by a running monologue that said nothing but "I don't belong here. I don't belong here. I don't belong here. Idon'tbelonghere. Idon'tbelonghereidon'tbelong..."
Not Kyle Trask. Trask's monologue was one word. "Finally."
Trask played well in his first real opportunity. More than well. He played like he belonged. Like he was Florida's best quarterback all along. He completed nine of his 13 passes for 126 yards, rushed for a 4-yard touchdown and guided the Gators on a 19-0 run to win the game, 29-21.
"Kyle is a guy who's always prepared," Florida receiver Kyle Hammond said after the game. "We knew he was going to come in and make those plays."
"It's a next-man-up mentality," Trask said. "I had to do whatever it took for the team."
“There was never a doubt when he came in that he could do a heckuva job and he did. I’m really proud of him. I’m really happy for him. You don’t see this much, huh? It’s a tragedy in college football," Mullen said on the field after the game. "You don’t see guys like him grow, learn, develop and believe in their school. He’s a graduate. All these transfers here, transfers there … you grow, you learn and take advantage of it. And now everybody got to see what type of quarterback we knew he was the whole time.”
The job was Trask's from that moment forward, and he never gave it back. He threw for 2,775 yards and 24 touchdowns (plus three rushing) over Florida's final 10 games, then started 2020 with that Burrow-esque performance in Oxford. He's 9-2 as a starter, losing only to eventual national champion LSU and eventual Sugar Bowl champion Georgia. Franks is now the quarterback at Arkansas, and Jones is still Trask's backup.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds with a good mobility and an NFL arm, quarterbacking the No. 3 team in the country, there's no limit on what Trask can achieve over the next seven months.
Trask could have transferred ahead of the 2019 season and played immediately elsewhere. That was his right, and he'd earned it and then some. Burrow reminded us that to realize our opportunity, sometimes we have to leave where we are and go find it. There's nothing wrong with that, that's just life.
But Trask is a walking example that sometimes opportunity is right where we're standing in that moment, we just have to keep improving and be patient enough for it to find us.