Kyle Trask waited a long time and put in a lot of effort to get his shot, and it's what he did when he finally got it that made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to give him another one.
On Friday, the Buccaneers made Trask the final pick of the second round in the 2021 NFL draft and the first quarterback the organization had drafted in six years. After five quarterbacks were taken in the first round, Trask was the next passer off the board after a senior season in which he threw a nation-leading 43 touchdown passes for the University of Florida. He only got the starting job for the Gators in 2019 after spending much of his high school and college careers sitting behind the likes of D'Eriq King and Feleipe Franks.
"He got his chance and really ran with it," said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel John Spytek. "We really appreciate guys who do that – it wasn't an easy road for him to get to where he's at. He's really had to fight and compete and stick with it. A lot of kids, they get buried on the depth chart and the first thing they do is enter the transfer portal. He didn't do that, obviously. We asked him about that and he said it never occurred to him. He said, 'They took a chance on me and my goal was to play at Florida.' And he did, and he played really well.
Indeed, Trask completed 67.9% of his passes at Florida, threw for 7,386 yards in 27 games and finished with a stellar 69-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio. All of this came after he pursued a spot on the Florida roster by going to the school's football camps, eventually attracting an offer but no guarantees of playing time. He was not necessarily expected to produce at the level he did when the got the starting job, but before he was done he was a 2020 Heisman Trophy finalist.
"That was a big question mark that people had on me in college and I feel like I proved them all wrong," said Trask. "Everyone said I hadn't started for a long time, and then I went out on the biggest stage and played at a high level. I feel very confident in my ability to play on any stage."
Trask will start his career behind Tom Brady, who led the Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl LV and now has seven Super Bowl championship rings. Brady is currently under contract through the 2022 season but Trask may eventually get the chance to be his successor.
View pictures of Florida QB Kyle Trask, who Tampa Bay selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
"He fits what we do here, fits our style of offense, he can throw the ball down the field and stand in there," said Spytek. "He has a chance to come in here and learn from the greatest of all time, Tom Brady, so it makes sense.
"He's got a good arm. He's really accurate – I think you can see that with the two years he played there, he's in the upper sixties in completion percentage. What we really liked was his big jump from his junior year to his senior year, because this is a kid that hadn't played a lot of football."
Trask has heard the questions about his arm strength but doesn't think they're valid, maintaining that he can make every throw that will be asked of him in the NFL. But he also thinks the work he put in to learn how to run the offense at Florida and to process information quickly will give him an advantage.
"To have that decisiveness, to get the ball out of your hand and know what to do, and the ability to read defenses [is important]," said Trask. "But overall, I think all of those things just comes from preparation. I think that's one thing that really helped me excel at the college level, is the amount of time and effort I put into my preparation. So whenever I'm out there on Saturdays, I was able to know exactly what to do with the ball."
He is also excited about the opportunity to contnue that learning process under Brady and the Buccaneers' excellent coaching staff.
"I really like what they do on offense," he said. "That's why it seemed like such a great fit in my mind, just the style of play and the personality and the character of the players and the coaches. I think there's a lot of great people in the building right now. Obviously I'm not there yet but from the outside looking in it just looks like an organization in the right spot. I'm really excited to get started and learn as much football as I can."
The last quarterback the Buccaneers drafted was Jameis Winston with the first-overall pick in 2015, and Winston was essentially the team's starter for five years before hitting free agency while the Buccaneers pursued Brady last year. As an organization, Tampa Bay has not frequently invested in quarterbacks in the second or third rounds, doing so just three times in team history before Friday night. But Head Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht had been looking for the right intersection of player and spot in the draft for the past two years and it arrived on Friday at th end of Round Two. And it feels like the perfect fit.
"I think it's an ideal situation for a quarterback who hasn't played a lot of football in his career," said Spytek. "Not that he hasn't played, but some guys are four-year starters in high school and three-year starters in college, and that wasn't Kyle's journey. His is just a little bit more abbreviated than that, but that doesn't mean he can't do it, so I think for him this makes a lot of sense. It should be good for him in the long run."