UCF quarterback Mackenzie Milton entered the transfer portal on Thursday, ending a five-year career with the Chevaliers in the hope of getting his last chance at a starting job.
Milton had not played for two years after dislocating his right knee and suffering ligament, nerve and arterial injuries in the November 2018 match. He has steadily worked his way through and over the past two months has led the FCU scout team, trying to get another chance to play.
When Dillon Gabriel emerged as UCF quarterback, Milton realized he had to leave to reach his goal to become a starter again.
I know I’m running out of time, Milton said in an exclusive interview with ESPN. I’ve only got a year to play and thanks to Dillon’s impulse, I don’t want any fights in the locker room. He deserves to start here at UCF. I see that, and I think it would be better for the UCF and for myself if I moved. I’m trying to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL, so I have to give myself the best chance to get there.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mackenzie Milton has not played since his devastating knee injury in 2018. AP Photo/Fan M. Ebenhak
Milton informed his teammates of his decision on Thursday morning, after he had had numerous talks with Gabriel and UCF coach Josh Hoipel in recent days, who hoped to convince him to stay. The decision was all the more difficult to make because Milton and Gabriel are good friends. In fact, Gabriel chose UCF for a large part because Milton paved the way for him from Hawaii.
It’s very emotional, but it’s one of those things where Dillon and I go our separate ways,” Milton said. He’s in his UCF, and I feel mine coming to an end, so I feel the torch is over. He’ll continue to do great things. It’s a difficult decision, but it’s also the right one.
There are no bitter feelings for the UCF. I’ll always bleed black and gold. That’s the end of that chapter for me and my playing career here, and that’s probably the sweetest thing. We’ve accomplished a lot in the time we’ve spent here, and it’s been nothing but a blessing.
Mahalo, McKenzie #10hana pic.twitter.com/c47tr0iF31
– 2. UCF football (@UCF_Football) 3. UCF football. December 2020.
Milton, who was responsible for 9,760 yards of offense and 92 touchdowns in his UCF career, started 2016 as a true rookie, but the best was yet to come. In 2017, the Chevaliers went undefeated, defeated Auburn in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl and led the season to declare themselves national champions. Milton also led UCF to an unbeaten 11-0 start to the season until 2018, for his annual game against USF.
Things changed for him when he was beaten in the knee in the second quarter of that game. Within hours of the injury, the doctors at Tampa General Hospital worked to save his leg from amputation. Then began the long road to recovery. Surgeon Milton in Minnesota allowed him to resume soccer last summer. In a recent interview with ESPN, UCF head coach Mary Vander Hayden said Milton’s knee is stable and his strength is within normal limits.
Milton collects a tape for future coaches that contains both the highlights of his game and the work of his scouting team this season – which he believes will be important when he takes the next step in his journey. Milton knows he’ll have questions about his knee and his long layoffs when he starts to take an interest in the programs, and he’s ready to answer them.
I’m going to tell them that I feel really good and I have the tape to show them how the scout team does all the pitches and runs, Milton said. But I’ll also let them know that I’m ready for the whole spring baseball competition as soon as work starts, and that when the season starts, I’m 100% ready. I’m sure of it. I have nothing to hide. I’ll do what I have to do. I don’t care about that. If it was something I was worried about, I probably wouldn’t have taken that step.
Milton said he hopes to find a new school by spring semester in January to meet his new teammates and coaches. He wants to find a team that has a chance to win, with a solid attack line and an experienced quarterback, but he doesn’t want to rush his decision.
The strength and air conditioning of the medical team is just as important, given what he has experienced over the past two years. But Milton also says he’s feeling better than ever.
My knee is strong, all my ligaments are completely intact, I am stronger than ever and I will continue to pursue my recovery, Milton said. Even though I’ve been given some free time, I know there’s still a lot of work to do, piling up day after day. When August starts, I know it’ll be like clockwork. I’m very excited.