Three years ago at this time McKenzie Milton and Vavae Malepeai were high school juniors on cloud nine.
The quarterback-running back duo led Mililani to its first ever state football championship and was motivated to make an even bigger splash a season ahead.
Fast-forward and the former Trojans are following a similar blueprint.
Just like back in 2014 the two are going to work in the off-season under the watch of Kenny Patton at Patton Performance.
Milton, the reigning Archie Griffin Award winner guided UCF to a perfect season in 2017 while Malepeai continued his climb on the depth chart at USC.
As both enjoy the end of their spring homecoming and prepare to tackle summer school next week, lofty goals are ahead for their junior seasons.
“You still want to have a hunters mentality, you still want to attack so I still feel that I still have the same work ethic and I’ll always know that there’s room for improvement. So I’m always going to try and push to better myself, better my team and just do whatever it takes to get wins in the win column” Milton told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
Milton, the 2014 Cover2 Kaulukukui Award winner as state offensive player of the year led the Knights to a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl this past January.
He passed for more than 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns and added eight rushing touchdowns during the 2017 season.
The past three winners of the Griffin Award were future NFL draft picks Sam Darnold (USC), DeShaun Watson (Clemson) and Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State). New UCF head coach Josh Heupel, who replaced Nebraska’s Scott Frost won the Archie Griffin Award in 2000 while playing for Oklahoma.
Malepeai, who was the Cover2 Marcus Mariota Award winner as state player of the year in 2015, rushed for 259 yards on 48 carries as a reserve running back in his red-shirt freshman season of 2017, is expected to compete for the starting job this fall, having scored a touchdown in the Trojans Spring Game earlier this year.
“The goal is to be the best player that I can be. Play my role as best as I can. Of course like everybody is, fight for the starting job so you can get some playing time out there. That’s why we’re out here working with KP. It’s good, the mindset is just take everything and run with it. Take no prisoners and just do the best you can do” said Malepeai.
When asked if Milton’s perfect season and claimed national championship served as offseason motivation, Malepeai expressed that nothing has changed going back to their Pop Warner playing days.
“Yeah, we all get each other better so the bar is just, the standards keeps rising so everybody is out here on a mission”
“It’s been a special ride. Going from just being kids at Mililani playing ball, being brothers down there and just seeing the success everyone is having at the collegiate level it’s been special” added Milton.
The two former teammates head for different coasts of the U.S. Continent but will each start summer school next week.
UCF opens their 2018 season on Thursday, August 30th at UCONN.
USC will start their season two days later against UNLV.