UCF’s McKenzie Milton shares details of injury, rehab

The Knights quarterback tells ESPN about the play that ended his season, and the ordeal that followed.
Coaches and trainers attend to UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who was injured and eventually carted off the field during the second quarter of last season's rivalry game with USF.  (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Coaches and trainers attend to UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who was injured and eventually carted off the field during the second quarter of last season's rivalry game with USF. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Apr. 18, 2019

An ESPN story offering UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton’s first-person account of his frightening knee injury and grueling rehab offers previously unrevealed details of the ordeal.

They include how USF coaches attempted to console him in the immediate wake of the injury while he remained on the Raymond James Stadium turf.

Milton’s account, told to veteran ESPN reporter Andrea Adelson, was published Thursday morning.

Known universally as “KZ,” Milton said he didn’t tear the ACL or MCL in his right knee on the second-quarter play against USF on Nov. 23, but tore the popliteal artery in the leg and suffered extensive nerve damage.

In recounting the play ― a run in which Milton was tackled by Bulls cornerback Mazzi Wilkins ― that resulted in the injury, Milton said:

"It was third and 7. We looked to the sideline to check for a play called Sling Push. After the D-end clamped, the corner, Mazzi Wilkins, peeled off and kind of caught me off-guard; he dove for my leg, and his helmet went straight onto my knee. The next thing I know, my leg was just kind of dangling there.

"I took one look at it for a split second, and I put my head back down, thinking, ‘Wow, this doesn’t really feel real.’ I knew it was bad, but I didn’t really feel too much pain, I guess from the adrenaline and shock. It happened right next to the USF sideline, and next thing I know, the USF trainer was out there, and coach Charlie Strong was out there, asking me, ‘KZ, how are you doing? How are you doing?’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m not doing that great.’”

Milton later said Strong continued to ask how he was doing, then added: "USF’s DBs coach came out and told me, ‘You’re the best I’ve ever seen at this level. I have a lot of respect for you. I’ll be praying for you.’”

RELATED: The other side of that hit on UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton

Because no pulse initially could be detected in the leg, Milton was rushed to Tampa General Hospital for immediate surgery. He said surgeons had to remove the saphenous vein from his left leg to make a new artery in the right one to restore blood flow to save the leg.

“I also had two big cuts on each side of my right leg ― they were open with tubes running in and out with blood just coming out," he said. "They had to keep those open because, if not, your leg would puff up and basically explode.”

Milton also reiterated he harbored no ill will toward Wilkins, with whom he met face-to-face at a faith-based event on UCF’s campus last weekend.

“I heard he’s getting death threats. Nobody deserves that,” Milton wrote. “Nobody deserves people trying to go after your family. It’s ridiculous. We know what we’re getting ourselves into playing football. I told him I have no ill will toward him. DBs typically hit low. I know that as a player.”

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RELATED: McKenzie Milton, Mazzi Wilkins share a stage

Milton, whose deep-seated faith comes through in the story, said he's intent on playing football again, but acknowledged it "probably" won't be this season. He wants to walk without crutches by the end of April, and possibly start jogging by the end of the summer.

“I feel like I got hurt for a reason,” Milton said. "Something good’s going to come out of it. If I could write my story, if I could write my book right now, I’d play 10 years in the NFL, win a couple Super Bowls and then maybe coach at UCF after that. That would be the way to go.

“But it’s for God to write, not me.”