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Having lived five years in Gainesville’s 352 area code, quarterback Kyle Trask knew what it meant when “813″ appeared on the screen of his iPhone on Friday night back home in southeast Texas.
The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were calling, using the final pick of the NFL Draft’s second round to snag the Gators’ record-setter.
“I was trying to keep a very open mind,” an elated Trask said moments afterward during a videoconference with reporters. “I was super excited when I saw that Tampa, Florida, number call me. They were one of my most favorite teams throughout this entire process.
“When I saw that Tampa Bay, Florida, man, it was unbelievable.”
Trask’s selection with the No. 64 pick continued his remarkable football odyssey — the next step is just two hours down I-75 South — and positioned him for a successful NFL career.
Trask is the first UF quarterback drafted since Tim Tebow in 2010 and eighth since 1967. The San Francisco 49ers selected Steve Spurrier with the third pick, but he would finish his career, coincidentally, playing for the 1976 Buccaneers during their winless inaugural season.
Trask, though, will arrive to a winning franchise led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady, allowing Trask to develop without the pressure to play immediately. These expectations can often kill the confidence and curtail the development of a NFL rookie signal-caller due the heightened complexity of the offenses and increased speed of the professional game.
Trask, 23, said he plans to learn as much as he can from arguably the best QB of all time. Brady is a record seven-time Super Bowl champion, three more than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw and four more than Troy Aikman.
Brady also will be 44 by the start of the 2021 season. Despite his unprecedented longevity and legendary work ethic and regimen, Brady will have to eventually cede the reins in Tampa Bay to someone.
Trask will receive the first chance to position himself to follow the future Hall of Famer.
“The organization is in a great spot right now,” Trask said. “I’m really just looking forward to getting started and putting in that work and doing whatever I can to help the team.”
Besides Brady, Trask will be able to pick the brains of the keen offensive minds of head coach Bruce Arians and coordinator Byron Leftwich. Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, has worked closely with Pro Bowlers Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer.
Leftwich, who played 10 NFL seasons, directed a 2020 Tampa Bay offense that led the NFL in passing (302.8 yards per game) and tied for third in the league with an average of 28.6 points.
Trask said he watched the 2020 Bucs frequently due to the team’s proximity to Gainesville.
“I like what they do on offense,” Trask said. “That’s why it seemed like such a great fit in my mind, just the style of play and personality of the players and coaches. I just think there’s a lot of great people in the building right now.
“Obviously I’m not there yet, but from an outsider looking in it looks like an organization in the right spot, so I’m really excited to get it started, learn as much football as I can.”
Arians said Trask’s three seasons with offensive-minded Dan Mullen should lessen the learning curve.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for Dan Mullen ... he does a hell of a job with quarterbacks,” Arians said.
Trask had to wait his chance to put Mullen’s teachings into practice. But when he stepped in for injured starter Feleipe Franks during Week 3 of the 2019, Trask was ready to perform and never looked back.
Trask’s patient approach and ability to develop behind the scenes was among his many selling points to the Bucs. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Trask’s size, accuracy, decision-making and poise under pressure also give him the tools to succeed in Tampa Bay.
“He knows he’s not ready-made,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht. “He thinks this is a perfect opportunity for him to sit for as long as he has to sit. We’ll see.”
No college quarterback is a sure-thing once he makes the step up to the NFL. Trask set school records with 43 touchdowns and 4,283 yards during the 2020 season and was a Heisman finalist.
Those accomplishments earned him signing bonus of $1,385,700 and overall contract of around $5.5 million, along with an amazing opportunity.
Trask soon will arrive in Tampa Bay an NFL newcomer having to prove himself. The native of Manvel, Texas, believes in time he will.
“I feel very confident in my ability to play on any stage,” he said. “I’m just continuing to work out and learn the game and further my knowledge. I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”
But the challenge ahead could wait on Friday night. Surrounded by parents, family and girlfriend Jade Carraway, a former UF softball player from Winter Garden, Trask was ready to celebrate.
“It’s totally surreal for me,” he said. “I’m trying to soak it all in and enjoy the moment. Once it’s done, just get back to the grind.”