For the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, the 2021 NFL Draft was always going to be about adding depth at the thinner positions on their roster. With their first-round pick on Thursday night, they addressed what was perhaps their biggest need by selecting Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon. On Friday night, with the final pick of the second round (No. 64 overall), Tampa Bay looked to the other side of the ball and drafted who it surely hopes will be Tom Brady’s successor in a few years. The pick was Kyle Trask, the 2020 Heisman Trophy finalist out of the University of Florida. Here are three things you need to know about the team’s second-rounder.
He went seven years without starting a game before blossoming over the last two years in Gainesville
In the first two (maybe three?) years of his NFL career, Kyle Trask will spend a lot of time on the sideline. In that time, he’ll get to learn from Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, and an all-star coaching staff. There’s no doubt that any rookie quarterback would relish the chance to be in this situation, but while taking advantage of the opportunity, Trask will need to have some patience. He won’t get a chance to lead an NFL offense until Brady hangs up his cleats. But Trask is no stranger to waiting. After his freshman season at Manvel High School in Texas, Trask didn’t start another game for seven years.
Kyle Trask never gave up on himself.— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) May 1, 2021
After being benched following his freshman year of high school, he waited SEVEN YEARS until he got his next start.
Now, the @GatorsFB quarterback will learn under Tom Brady and the @Buccaneers. pic.twitter.com/fM2CV1GeWF
During the final three years of his prep career, Trask was the backup to current Miami Hurricanes quarterback—and former Houston Cougars star—D’Eriq King. Despite that, Trask still caught the eye of coaches at the University of Florida, one of the SEC’s premier programs. He chose the Gators over Houston Baptist, Lamar and McNeese State, and upon arriving in Gainesville, he had more waiting to do.
Trask redshirted in 2016, didn’t see any action in 2017 and only served as a backup to Feleipe Franks in 2018. But when Franks went down with an injury during the 2019 season, Trask stepped in. Finally getting his chance to start a game for the first time in seven years, he didn’t look back.
In Florida’s 34-3 win over Tennessee, he completed 20 of his 28 pass attempts for 293 yards and two touchdowns (to two interceptions). He started the rest of the season for the Gators, leading them to an 8-2 record and an Orange Bowl win while throwing for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns to six interceptions. Franks transferred after the season, paving the way for Trask to start every game in 2020 and put together a phenomenal final season in Gainesville.
In a pre-draft interview with The Draft Network, Trask talked about what he learned during his prolonged time as a backup:
“I definitely learned a lot about integrity and determination. You never know what somebody is dealing with behind closed doors. You have to earn everything in this life. Most of us aren’t given much in this sport. I knew that I had to grind a lot. I didn’t give up after those six or seven years. I was the backup. At the same time, I always remained optimistic that I would get an opportunity. I just had to make the most of it when it came. That’s exactly what I did. Luckily, it happened for me in 2019.”
Along with learning about that integrity and determination, Trask certainly displayed a great deal of loyalty. He said he never once considered leaving Florida via the transfer portal, and looking back, it’s a certainty that he’s glad he stuck around.
His 2020 season was historic, despite being shortened by COVID-19
Trask showed a lot of promise after taking over as Florida’s starter in 2019. But what he did in 2020 was on another level. He threw for 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns to just eight interceptions on his way to being a Heisman Trophy finalist. Despite a fourth-place finish in Heisman voting, the Gator great still left college with a long list of milestones to his name. He became the first player in 15 years to throw for three touchdowns or more in nine straight games while setting program single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns. Not to mention, he led all of FBS in total touchdowns (46) and touchdown passes (43), plus he was second in passing yards (4,283). Oh, and he did all of this in 12 total games due to the regular season being shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout 2020, Trask put up some eye-catching stat lines. He started the season by throwing for 416 yards and six touchdowns at Ole Miss before passing for four touchdowns in each of the Gators’ next four games. Another six-touchdown performance followed against Arkansas before solid games against both Kentucky and Tennessee. His lone “down” game in the regular season came in a loss to LSU, as he threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, and took four sacks. He still threw for 474 yards and totaled four touchdowns, though, helping Florida fight back into the game before a costly shoe-throwing penalty on the Gator defense helped LSU win with a late field goal.
After a shaky performance against the Tigers at the end of the regular season, Trask led the Gators into the SEC Championship Game against No. 1 Alabama and went toe-to-toe with the eventual College Football Playoff national champions. He put up four total touchdowns and threw for 408 yards in a game that the Crimson Tide escaped with a 52-46 win. Going head-to-head with eventual No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones, Trask did more than enough to prove his worth to NFL teams. And despite countless teammates opting out of the team’s Cotton Bowl matchup with No. 6 Oklahoma, Trask played the game anyway. He had a rough time, but the message he sent about his character and loyalty in that game has to impress.
Trask is the first Florida Gators quarterback to be drafted since in 2010
The Florida Gators haven’t had the best of luck with quarterbacks since their national title years in the late 2000s, but Trask was able to reverse that trend. With two big seasons to finish his college career, he was able to earn his way into being the program’s first quarterback selected in the NFL Draft since 2010. It was in 2010 that Tim Tebow was selected in the first round by the Denver Broncos after a career that saw him win two national championships and a Heisman Trophy. Trask didn’t have quite the same tenure in Gainesville that Tebow did, but he did cement himself as the program’s best quarterback of of the last decade.
Florida saw varying degrees of struggles for years after Tebow left, largely because of a glaring hole at the quarterback position. The team went through quite a few quarterbacks from 2010-2019, and none of them were much better than mediocre (with the exception of Will Grier, who transferred to West Virginia). Feleipe Franks did manage to lead the team to a 10-win season and a Peach Bowl victory in 2018, but the run that Trask went on in his time as the starter elevated the program back to a state of relevancy.
The newest Buc left Gainesville in rare company, sitting up there with Tebow as one of the top signal-callers in the program’s modern era—and possibly its history. He is the fifth-highest drafted Gators quarterback ever and the first to ever go in the second round. And of course, he steps into an advantageous position. He was used to having weapons at Florida—Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney were both first-round picks on Thursday night—and he’ll have a whole host of weapons at his disposal if he ever gets the chance to take over for Brady.
Well, Bucs fans, there you have it. Kyle Trask will get a shot to one day take over for the greatest quarterback Tampa Bay—and the NFL—has ever seen. You can find him on Twitter at @ktrask9. Be sure to give him a follow, congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay!