For the first time, badly injured UCF QB McKenzie Milton has given a detailed, first person account of the horrific right leg injury he suffered in the Knights rivalry battle last November in Tampa with USF. And in his descriptions of the events surrounding his injury, treatment on the Raymond James Stadium field and subsequent surgery, came the chilling admission that Milton was sure, if his leg wasn’t going to have to be amputated.
The account by Milton was done with the assistance of ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, who tweeted this around the time that the item was published Thursday:
I want to thank McKenzie for all his time, his openness and honesty in discussing the most challenging five months of his life. His spirit and positive outlook should serve as an inspiration to us all.
— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) April 18, 2019
First, as we recounted last fall, Milton was injured in the second quarter of UCF’ win over USF at Raymond James Stadium. He was hit in the right leg by Bulls DB Mazzi Watkins, while planting on a quarterback scramble. Milton crumbled to the ground with a badly dislocated right kneecap and leg.
ESPN never showed replays of the injury and Milton was on the ground for several minutes being tended to by medical personnel from both UCF, USF and Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics. The concern was not only for Milton’s kneecap dislocation but also for potential nerve damage for his leg.
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,” and then Mary Vander Heiden, our head athletic trainer, was over me, and I feel Dr. [Kenneth] Krumins, our team physician at the time, tugging on my knee. I felt him put it back into place.
John Evans, our team chaplain, was praying over me, and both sidelines were clear. Coach Strong kept asking, “How you doing, KZ?” I kept telling him, “Coach, I don’t know. My leg hurts.” I started feeling the pain. I felt it throbbing. They took off my shoe, cut my tape, and they were feeling for a pulse down in my leg, and I wasn’t really sure why.
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.”
As we later learned and Milton furthered detailed in his ESPN story, injuries like this one can even become a life-threatening situation with blood flow and his organs. Milton was rushed from the game to Tampa General Hospital downtown, where surgery was performed later on Friday to help nerves in the legs that had been damaged by the injury.
Milton then bravely, but chillingly recounted,
When we got to Tampa General Hospital, I saw my mom waiting in the hallway, and that’s when I started crying. I had a CAT scan, and it showed I had a torn popliteal artery. The doctors told me, “We’re going to have to go into surgery right away to try and restore the blood flow to the bottom of your leg.” I went into surgery at about 6 or 7 p.m. and woke up around midnight. I looked to see if I still had my leg, and it was still there.
My parents, my girlfriend, Coach [Josh] Heupel, [UCF athletic director] Danny White and many of my teammates were all there. I saw Sam Jackson, our offensive lineman, and told him we were matching now because he had an ACL earlier that spring. Seeing all those people there definitely lifted me up at that time. I saw a different side of Coach Heupel, a softer side.
Luckily, his leg was saved through numerous surgeries and Milton was eventually released from Tampa General, rehabbed and got a little stronger, and then joined his teammates in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl on January 1st.
Milton also told his account of meeting Watkins last weekend for the first time and wanting to make sure that Watkins understood that he was not blaming him for the hit that injured Milton. And, that UCF fans should stop with their reported threats to Watkins and do the same.
Finally, in terms of the future, it’s obviously a real long shot that Milton will ever be able to play on a football field, again.
Still, he remains positive and told Adelson,
As for playing again, it’s going to take divine intervention, which has already taken place, considering the best-case scenarios. I tore only two of the four ligaments that usually get torn when you dislocate your knee. My blood’s flowing great. The nerve’s coming back, so that’s already happening. But what it’s going to take from me is busting my butt, listening to our medical staff. It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s worth it.
It probably won’t be this season, but I don’t think that would be fair to put a set date on it. I don’t want to disappoint myself. I’m trying to have mini goals. I want to walk without crutches by the end of April….
And concluded with,
I go crazy not being able to participate in spring practice, but I’d go more crazy if I weren’t out there helping those guys. I’m trying to embrace my new role on the team, and I’ll embrace it as long as I have to, but I’m definitely going to take care of what I need to take care of to get where I want to go.
I feel like I got hurt for a reason. 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.
Now, we wait together to see what happens next with the premier player of the Knights program the last two years.
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