Kyle Trask's high school coach would tell any recruiter who would listen: The kid can play. He's got an NFL arm. Back then, Kirk Martin felt he owed it to Trask, who emerged Saturday night as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner as No. 6 Florida tore Arkansas apart in The Swamp.
"I just couldn't get anybody to bite, not any of the big timers," Martin told CBS Sports as the seconds wound down in the Gators' 63-35 win over Razorbacks. "I was thinking, 'This is what's going to happen. They're going to do a '30 for 30' on this kid someday after he played in the NFL for years. They're going to talk about me like I'm the guy that cut Michael Jordan."
You see, Trask didn't start in high school. In fact, he didn't start at all until he replaced an injured Feleipe Franks last season at Florida. At Manvel High School in Texas, Trask played behind one D'Eriq King. Who could blame Martin?
"D'Eriq was a little more twitched up than Kyle," Martin said.
That's one way of putting it. King, now at Miami, remains one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. But Trask is the nation's best player at the moment … or however you want to quantify Heisman hype.
For the second time this season, the redshirt senior quarterback threw six touchdown passes, including five in the first half against the Hogs. That gave him 28 touchdown passes on the season, breaking the SEC record in that category through six games. Only one other player in the last 20 years has thrown that many through the first six games of a season -- Graham Harrell for Texas Tech in 2007.
To put it another way: At a school in Florida with three Heisman-winning quarterbacks, only Danny Wuerffel had two games of 6+ passing touchdowns -- in his career.
That's a good place to start the Heisman talk. Wuerffel won the Stiff Arm Trophy in 1996. His statue, along with Gators' other -- Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow -- grace the entrance to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"We've been around this before," said Florida coach Dan Mullen, who coached Tebow as the Gators offensive coordinator. "Kyle is a mature kid who understands it. … Anything beyond that is a colossal waste of time right now."
"Stats are cool," Trask added, "but they don't win games."
Dismissing Heisman hype is why Saturday was more than about Trask.
Florida (5-1) is winning a lot of games because Trask has been a later bloomer. Watching the Gators through this entire season, they match up quite nicely with No. 1 Alabama, the SEC favorite, because of that dynamic offense.
You might have noticed that both squads have a difference-making quarterback and a depth chart choked with pass catcher. You might have also noticed that is how LSU, in large part, won last year's national championship.
Now the puzzle pieces start to come together. Trask's 28 TD passes are more through six games than last year's QBs at LSU and Alabama -- Joe Burrow (25) and Tua Tagovailoa (27), respectively the No. 1 and No. 5 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
If you put it all together, Florida is closer to competing for a championship than at any time since Urban Meyer's departure.
On a night when three of his biggest Heisman challengers -- Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones -- Trask had all eyeballs on him. He threw touchdowns to four different pass catchers. That without leading target and top playmaker Kyle Pitts, who missed the game because of a concussion. Nine Gators have caught scoring passes from Trask this season.
"What's not to like?" Martin said. "His best [receiver] is out, and he's still lighting it up. If he gets to play in the conference championship game and win that, that'll seal the deal."
That's kind of a neat projection. On the day when the Heisman announced the date of its ceremony (Jan. 5), Trask established himself as the man to beat. He has played six games this season -- all against SEC opponents -- and thrown 4+ touchdown passes in each of them.
At one point on Saturday night, Trask rescued a poorly-executed flea flicker throwing flat-footed for a 43-yard gain. After Trask's fifth touchdown pass, Mullen got on his quarterback on the sideline for what was perceived to be a missed read.
"I'm not a pat-on-the-back type of guy," Mullen said.
"You can never be too good," Trask said.
Meanwhile, third-string Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson couldn't help himself at halftime.
Aye I’m not supposed to be on my phone but somebody tell them to give Kyle the heisman trophy already! 💯— Anthony Richardson † (@GVOaant) November 15, 2020
By the end of the game, the fans who were allowed in The Swamp could be heard chanting, "Trask for Heisman."
Through six games, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder has completed 70% of his passes for 2,171 yards. Among Heisman winners, only BYU's Ty Detmer had more yards passing through six games. More recently, Trask can be compared to Burrow (2,157 yards passing) and Tagovailoa (2,011), who both had fewer passing yards through six games.
Now consider this: Burrow (four) and Tagovailoa (three) each played multiple non-SEC teams among their first six games last season. Burrow played Georgia Southern, Northwestern State & Utah State in three of those games.
Trask got himself to this place by being more than good. He's done it being loyal.
Never mind college quarterbacks, high school types don't have much patience either when it comes to playing time. Trask accepted his place behind King because, as he told Martin, "I was born and raised in Manvel, Texas. As long as you're going to give me the opportunity to compete for the job, I'm not going anywhere. If D'Eriq is better than me, he's going to have to prove it."
King did as an undersized three-star prospect who last week became the first player in 25 years to pass for 500 yards and five touchdowns with two different programs. King transferred twice, once in high school and once in college, joining Miami from Houston.
Trask stayed loyal even though his dad once went to Martin and told the coach his son was looking elsewhere. "Mr. Trask, he could go anywhere in the country and start," Martin recalls saying. "Don't pick that school. They run the Wing T. They throw 6-7 times a game. He'll get more throws here, more exposure here."
And Trask did.
As the story goes, former Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was at Manvel scouting another player. Trask's arm got his attention. Then-offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier followed up. Martin had Trask specifically set up to throw a series a 22-yard out patterns to receivers from the opposite hash mark. It showcased the quarterback's accuracy, timing and arm strength.
"He's better than any five-star I've seen," Nussmeier told Martin.
Florida got Trask to camps and got interested. But the kid who was being recruited by Houston Baptist and Lamar wouldn't commit.
"He's not a knee-jerk reaction guy," Martin said.
Trask slept on it, prayed on it and talked to his parents about it until he eventually committed to the Gators. Through three seasons at Florida, he had thrown 22 passes. Trask didn't start until 2019 and only because Franks was injured. When Franks was knocked out against Kentucky, Florida trailed 21-10. Trask led the Gators to three fourth-quarter touchdowns drives and a 29-21 victory.
Trask's ascension caused Franks to transfer to Arkansas. Trask's ascension also has drawn comparisons to Burrow, without the transfer part.
"You look at life, as soon as things don't go well, [it's], 'I want to quit, I want to leave, I want to try something new, I want to give up,'" Mullen said. "Instead of, 'You know what? I'm going to continue to prepare because, when my moment comes, I'm going to be ready for that moment. If that's not one of the greatest life lessons you can learn, I don't know what is. Really, he's an example for anybody."
All of this could be folly. November Heisman frontrunners can be afterthoughts by the end of the season. In this truncated season, nothing is guaranteed -- certainly not a shot at Burrow's 60 touchdown passes in a full season.
But there is something to be said for permanence, too.
Martin defined Trask-level loyalty another way in a conversation with the Florida's website before the season: "[Trask] won't be divorced. That kid, he'll marry, and it will be forever."