UCF star QB Milton to transfer for final season
UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton is transferring from the school, two years after suffering a devastating leg injury.
The school announced his departure Thursday in a video posted to social media.
Milton led the Knights to an undefeated (13-0) season in 2017, which culminated with a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The Knights were 10-0 the following season when Milton was injured on Nov. 23, 2018, in a game at South Florida.
The nerves in his right leg were so damaged and the blood flow so restricted that amputation was a possibility. He had four surgeries and rehabbed with the intention of playing again for the Knights.
But with Dillon Gabriel, Milton’s best friend who followed him from Hawaii to Orlando, entrenched at quarterback, Milton is moving on. He does so, coach Josh Heupel said, as “the most influential person in the history of our program.”
“He’ll go down as one of the greatest players in the history of this program — that’s as simple as it can be said. You look at the UCF brand before he got here and the brand as he’s leaving –and it’s a tribute to him,” said Heupel, who took over as UCF coach when Scott Frost left for Nebraska following the 2017 season.
“You come into a place and it looks one way, you leave a place and it looks a different way. KZ (Milton) leaves UCF a better place.”
Nebraska, which has struggled to find consistency at quarterback this season, is a possible destination for Milton.
Wherever he winds up, Milton said he will be taking UCF with him.
“I just loved the vibe from the moment I got here,” Milton said, recalling his campus visit. “I looked at my mom and she knew this was where I wanted to go.
“I saw a young school with a new AD (Danny White) who was ambitious and a program that was not far from winning the Fiesta Bowl (over Baylor to end the 2013 season).
“I knew the potential with the talent in Florida. I felt it was the best opportunity to play ball and that turned out to be right. I still feel like we’re still just scratching the surface here.”
Milton started three games into his freshman season in 2016 and helped to transform the program into a Group of Five power.
He credited Heupel for his growth as a player and person.
“It’s been a special relationship we’ve built,” Milton said. “He helped me take my game and go from a 19-year-old kid at the Peach Bowl to a 23-year-old man. … He helped me take the next step to being a leader and a better quarterback.”
Heupel praised Milton for the mental and physical perseverance it took to come back from the injury to remain the heartbeat of the team — even from the sideline.
“For KZ over the last couple of years, it’s been going through a traumatic injury, being one of the greatest players in college football and 30 seconds later wondering, ‘Am I going to be able to keep my leg?’
“And then to have the ability to withstand all the surgeries, all the hardship, all the pain, all the questioning of whether he would get the opportunity again to compete at the highest level.”
Milton said the NFL remains a goal and wants to play another college season — even if that means transferring. Gabriel leads the NCAA in passing yards (3,353).
“This is DG’s team now,” Milton said of Gabriel. “I feel like the torch has passed.”
Milton leaves UCF with 8,683 career yards and 72 touchdown passes and commanded the team to 25 straight wins. As a graduate transfer, he would be eligible to play immediately in 2021.
“UCF has done way more for my family than I ever could do for them,” he said. “The joy it has brought me to be able to suit up in the black and gold, week in and week out.”
–Field Level Media