Kirk Martin understands why his colleagues may be jealous.
While most high school coaches fantasize about mentoring a Heisman-caliber quarterback just once in their career, Martin was able to do it twice.
At the same time.
From 2013-15 — long before they were the top two college signal callers in the Sunshine State — Miami’s D’Eriq King and Florida’s Kyle Trask played for Martin at Manvel (Texas) High School. The tale has been recounted numerous times by college football media the past few years, and the narrative is always the same.
King was the starter.
Trask was the backup.
Martin, though, says he never viewed it that way.
“I realize it’s an awesome story,” Martin told Outkick Sunday night. “But I’m growing a little tired of the ‘Kyle was a backup’ angle. In my mind we had two starters. I just chose to play D’Eriq more.”
Martin had never envisioned it that way. Years earlier he’d coached Trask’s older brother, Hayden, a standout linebacker, and remembers seeing Kyle – who was in junior high school — at all the games. He was big and sturdy, and he always had a football in his hands. Always.
“Even when I’d see him around town with his family, or in the halls when he was a freshman, he always had that ball,” Martin said. “He’d throw it to anyone who was near him. He was obviously a football junkie.
“I was excited about him.”
And Trask was excited about playing for Manvel. He’d grown up in the town, about 22 miles south of Houston, and dreamed about becoming the Mavericks starting quarterback during the long, hot afternoons he’d spend throwing the pigskin through a tire in his backyard.
The 6-foot-5 Trask appeared well on his way to earning the job after leading the freshman team to an undefeated record in 2012. But the following year, on the very first morning of August two-a-days, a car pulled up and out jumped King and his older brother, KeShon.
Martin had never heard of King, who had played his freshman year at a private school, where his father, Eric, was the head coach. Realizing that his son had a special gift, Eric decided to move D’Eriq to a bigger program.
“He wasn’t very big,” Martin said of King, who stood 5-foot-10 and weighed about 150 pounds. “He didn’t look like much. His dad told me he was a quarterback and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know. Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t.”
It didn’t take King long to prove himself.
After opening two-a-days with eight quarterbacks on the roster, the competition for Manvel’s starting varsity job had been whittled to two players, two sophomores, after just one week: Trask and King.
Martin ultimately went with King, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, making him a better option for Manvel’s wide-open attack.
“It’s not like Kyle wasn’t starting because he wasn’t capable,” Martin said.
“He wasn’t starting because the other kid ran a 4.4 and was a great passer, too.”
Trask spent the season leading the JV team to an undefeated record and also played sparingly for the varsity squad, watching from the sideline as King led the Mavericks to a 12-2 record.
After the season, Trask’s father approached Martin and told him another high school coach had contacted the family about the possibility of Trask leaving Manvel and transferring to his school, where he would instantly become a starter.
Feeling as if Martin had settled on King to lead the team the next two seasons, the family thought they should consider it.
“I told him, ‘Mr. Trask, I’m going to play your kid,’” Martin. “I’m going to give him reps and he’ll be on film. A lot more college coaches are going to look at him if he stays here than they will at that other school. I’m going to sell him. I promise you that.
‘But if you’re dead on moving, don’t move there. They run the Wing T. They’re only going to throw it five or six times a game. It’s not a good fit. If you’re dead set on moving, go find a pro-style offense that throws the football. He can start for 99 percent of the schools in Texas.’”
It never came to that.
Martin called Kyle into his office the next day and gave him the same speech. He said he was floored by the maturity of the 16-year-old, who
was still only a sophomore.
“Kyle listened to everything I told him,” Martin said. “And then he said, ‘Coach, I was born and raised Manvel, Texas. If D’Eriq King is better than me, he’s got to prove it. If you’re going to continue to allow me the opportunity to compete for the job, I’m not going anywhere. I love this place, I love my teammates and I love Manvel. I’m here to stay.’”
Even though Trask wasn’t able to beat out King as the starter the next two seasons, Martin lived up to his promise and played Trask the third and seventh series of every game. Sometimes more. Martin also did his best to promote Trask to college recruiters, and he had offers from Houston Baptist, Lamar and McNeese State after his junior year.
Martin, though, knew he was capable of playing in a major conference, which is why he continued to push Trask to Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Martin and Nussmeier were close, because Nussmeier had attempted to recruit Martin’s son, Koda, an offensive lineman, years earlier.
“Initially,” Martin said, “(Nussmeier) told me, ‘There’s no way we can sign a backup, Kirk. You know that, don’t you? This is SEC football. We can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Just send someone to look at him. I promise you won’t be disappointed.’”
Florida indeed sent an assistant, who reported back to Nussmeier that Trask had an “NFL arm.” That prompted a visit from Nussmeier a few weeks later.
“Coach,” he told Martin after watching Trask throw, “he’s better than any five-star I’ve seen this year.”
Florida invited Trask to two of its camps the summer before his senior year. Head coach Jim McElwain was hesitant to offer after the first one because he was afraid the whole “backup issue” would anger alums. But Trask was so good at the second camp that McElwain couldn’t resist. The Gators offered Trask as he left Gainesville in late July, and he called and committed the following day.
Trask didn’t play at all his first two seasons before seeing limited action in 2018. Last year he took over for injured starter Feleipe Franks and started the final 10 games of the season. He tallied 2,941 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions as the Gators finished 11-2.
Trask threw for six touchdown passes in Florida’s season-opening win over Ole Miss last week and is considered a Heisman candidate.
“Kyle can fling it a country mile,” Martin said. “And he throws the best deep ball I’ve ever seen. He’s doing the same thing there that he did at Manvel. He’s worked his tail off, he’s kept grinding — and he didn’t transfer, when a lot of other kids would’ve. He’s a guy that committed. He’s loyal. He’s a different breed.”
That’s why Martin — who is now the head coach at Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High School — gets a little defensive when people continue to talk about how Trask “couldn’t even start for his high school team.”
“I don’t want people to look at him as something less, because he never was,” Martin said. “He was never treated that way, either. He’s been called a backup so much. I really believe that fuels his fire. He plays with a chip on his shoulder.”
Martin is equally proud of King, who led Manvel to a 36-6 record during his three years as a starter. He broke Kyler Murray’s Texas 6A state record for career touchdown passes (117) and was also part of three state championship sprint relay teams. King played his first three seasons at Houston before transferring to Miami, where the Hurricanes are 3-0 and averaging 43.3 points a game. King has yet to throw an interception.
“D’Eriq might be the best leader I’ve ever coached,” Martin said. “He was never upset when I’d pull him out to put in Kyle. He’d say, ‘I get it, Coach. I get it. He’s good, too. He works hard and deserve to play, too.’
“They were great teammates and friends. They both wanted to be ‘the guy’ but they appreciated each other’s skill set.”
King has talked numerous times during the past year about how excited he is for Trask’s success, and he’s credited much of his own success to Trask for pushing him to get better when they were in high school.
Martin said King and Trask reunited in Houston last spring and worked out together numerous times during the pandemic.
Martin — who texts both players after every game — said he wouldn’t be surprised to see them together again this spring.
“Wouldn’t it be cool,” Martin said, “to turn on the TV and see them both in the Green Room at the NFL Draft?”
Or perhaps a few months earlier at the Heisman ceremony.
Having two finalists from the same college team is virtually unheard of. But two from the same high school squad? It’s only happened once, in 2004, when USC’s Reggie Bush and Utah’s Alex Smith were invited to the ceremony. They played together at Helix Charter High School in California.
If Trask and King keep their current pace, they could be well on their way.
“When your two best players are also your two hardest workers, you’ve got something special,” Martin said. “And we definitely had something special with them.”