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.
USF and UCF got American Conference 2020 schedules Tuesday
On Tuesday afternoon the American Athletic Conference made official is 2020 football dates for opponents for its conference members. And, that means UCF and USF got to look for the first time at their full conference slates and when they are playing whom.
First for the Knights, they learned that they will open year three of coach Josh Heupel’s conference play on Thursday night September 24th at East Carolina. It is one of three stand-alone weeknight(day) games UCF has on their schedule.
The next one will be Friday night October 16th, as UCF travels to play the Memphis Tigers. That’s a team that the Knights defeated for two Conference Championship Game victories in 2017 and 18.
— American Football (@American_FB) February 18, 2020
UCF will also play a traditional “War on I-4” game with the rival Bulls on the Friday after Thanksgiving November 27th. This will be the fourth straight year of playing on “Black Friday.”
As for the Knights other part of the league schedule, they will have their AAC home opener with Tulsa on Saturday October 3rd and then, finish the slate with two huge home matchups with Temple Saturday November 14th followed by Cincinnati at Spectrum Stadium the following week.
For the Bulls, who welcome first year coach Jeff Scott in 2020, they will only have two standalone appearances in conference play. Those will be a Friday night home game October 23rd with Tulsa and then, the previously mentioned final rivalry game with UCF on Friday November 27th.
The Bulls first conference game of the season will be at Cincinnati on October 3rd, while the home opener is East Carolina the following week at Raymond James Stadium.
USF has a tough road slate beginning at Temple on October 17th and then, after the Friday night home game with Tulsa, playing at Memphis November 7th and at Houston November 14th.
The conference is playing 2020 with only 11 members, as UConn has departed and gone back to the Big East. This will also be the first time that the AAC doesn’t play a two six team division format and will instead take the top two ranked teams in conference play for it’s December Championship Game.
Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl
One-player eager to start showcasing himself Saturday afternoon in the pre-draft process in St Petersburg is former UCF speedster RB, Adrian Killins.
Killins ,who just finished four years of highlight runs and touchdowns for the the Knights will participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) December 2, 2019
Killins is generously listed at 5’9 and 165 lb. and came UCF without much fanfare from Daytona Mainland High School. However, he had been an explosive player on the football gridiron, and he was also a former two time 3A State 200m track champion before coming to Orlando.
Once at UCF in 2016, Killins immediately showed off his explosiveness and moniker of “fastest player in college football” with a 100-yard kickoff return at ECU and an 87 yard touchdown run at “the Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he was named First Team All American Athletic Conference RB, as he rushed for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead UCF. He showed versatility and caught another additional 25 passes for 169 yards.
He also set a UCF record for longest play from scrimmage that still stands, in the UCF regular season win over Memphis, as he took a handoff and the looked like a missle racing down the sideline:
Longest run in @UCF_Football history ✔️
Longest run in @American_FB history ✔️
2nd-longest in NCAA this year ✔️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Killins helped the Knights experience their greatest season ever at 13 – 0 with not only a thrilling double-overtime conference title game rematch win over the Tigers, but a New Year’s Day upset of SEC Powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl for the perfect season.
His next two years under Josh Heupel and his new coaching staff were not as spectacular. But, he still he would make the occasional explosive run and finished his career with over 1,700 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
He did leave a final impression with his 115 yards and 1 TD in the regular season finale with USF.
Now, he knows that with his smaller size, even with blazing speed, he will be challenged to stick on an NFL roster, and another way might be as a kick returner. Killins left UCF with a career 21.8 avg on 47 returns as a Knight.
He will likely need to show that part of his game to help him get a realistic shot at the next level. And, we wait to see if there will be explosive plays from him Saturday.