Notre Dame football: FSU’s McKenzie Milton is worth rooting for
In 2018, McKenzie Milton made himself known to Notre Dame football fans by pointing out that UCF blew out a Pitt team that the Irish struggled to beat and saying of UCF and Notre Dame, “We’re better.” He was right too. That UCF team with a healthy McKenzie Milton, which was in the middle of a 25 game winning streak, was better than that Notre Dame team.
The issue is that Milton didn’t stay healthy.
By now, you’ve heard KZ’s story. A designed quarterback run to the strong side on Black Friday in 2018’s War on I-4 game. USF’s Mazzi Wilkins went low to tackle the Hawaiian-born quarterback, putting his helmet on Milton’s knee.
The result and injury are seldom seen outside of car crashes. Raymond James Stadium fell silent. Trainers from both sidelines sprinted out and an ambulance was immediately brought in. Both teams huddled around him, praying, many players crying. KZ’s knee was on backward.
Photos of the injury exist. Videos exist. You can find them if you want, but I won’t be linking them here.
In total, the injury would be described as a dislocated knee, more accurately his knee dislodged. There were multiple ligament tears, and there was a severe artery tear. There was also extensive nerve damage. Luckily, the game was being played in Tampa, where he quickly was able to go into surgery.
He had a 50% chance of losing his right leg below the knee. If the game wasn’t next to an excellent hospital, he would have. Doctors had to take arteries from his other leg to help reconstruct his right leg.
KZ wrote, “John Evans, our team chaplain, was praying over me, and both sidelines were clear. Coach Strong kept asking, ‘How are 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,” and said of going to the hospital, “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.”
The next week was the AAC Championship Game, which would be hosted by UCF. It was a rematch of the 2017 game against Memphis, which was a double-overtime thriller. This year, though, UCF would have to go in with a freshman quarterback, Darriel Mack Jr. They would have to go in covered in an emotional blanket that was the aftermath of Milton’s injury.