For the first time since suffering a gruesome knee injury putting his decorated collegiate football career on hold, Mililani graduate and UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton is back home in Hawaii on a road to recovery.
Back on November 23rd in Tampa, Milton suffered a dislocated right knee when a South Florida defender collided helmet first into his knee leading to LCL and posterior corner tears along with a severed artery that carries a 50-percent amputation rate.
Miraculously though, after five surgeries including an artery bypass to restore blood flow, the 21 year old is back home in the islands for the first time in a year and going through a demanding rehabilitation process. A journey that led him to taking his first steps without the use of crutches since the injury.
“It felt great man. It’s been a long time coming. Slow and grueling process but I just kind of look at it as knocking it down block by block and just taking it one step at a time literally,” Milton told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
Milton, has been reaching goal after goal thus far in the process of returning from the devastating injury, but possessing the same attitude that led him from state champion QB at Mililani to a two-time AAC player of the year, he is not content.
“As far along as anyone would expect in this process, so, but I’m not comfortable with that. I never try to stay comfortable. I think being an athlete you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and relish in those. I’m working to get better every day, if it hurts it’s just pain leaving the body so I’m working my butt off to get bs k on the field,” added Milton.
The injury which took place on national television the day after thanksgiving has been called one of the most gruesome and tough to watch in college football history, but believe it or not, Milton says the pain that comes from rehab outweighs the agony of the injury.
“When they’re cranking on the leg trying to get range of motion back it’s much more painful than the initial injury, but it’s a good pain because you know you’re getting better.”
One of the many images that captured the attention around the country was the response from the UCF fans after the injury. Thousands of lei were distributed at the AAC title game and the slogan 10hana was used as inspiration for the team in honor of Milton’s jersey number and his Hawaii upbringing. The gesture did not get lost for the proud Hawaii native.
“It’s means a lot. I think anybody from Hawaii carries the islands on their shoulder and that aloha spirit, so it means a lot. It’s something I don’t take for granted and whatever I can do to give back to Hawaii, I’m going to. That’s what brought me up, that’s what made me who I am and it’s something I don’t take for granted coming from,” said Milton.
As for what’s next and what the ultimate goal is for Milton as he pushes through the sweat and tears of the demanding rehab process, Milton thinks both long term and shorter.
“Obviously I want to play football again but I just want to be able to run around one day when I have kids and just play in the front yard and throw them passes, play soccer or whatever, I just want to be full functional and healthy at the end of the day, but you know, I still dream about playing football again and I’m confident that I’ll get there. I think I’ll be playing at a high level again,” said Milton.
Milton is on track to graduate from UCF in December, majoring in sports and exercise science.
His target to suit up and run out onto the field again is 2020 as a graduate student.