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Knights at the Roundtable: McKenzie Milton Moves On

BGB contributors discuss McKenzie’s announcement that he is transferring from UCF.

NCAA Football: AAC Championship-Memphis at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Each week during the football season, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming game ahead. It’s a way to get the staff to come together as well as the rest of Knights Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.

In this special edition of the roundtable, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener, Eric Lopez, Brian Murphy, Andrew Gluchov and Dani Medina take their seats to answer questions about McKenzie Milton transferring from UCF.

1) What was your first thought when you found out McKenzie Milton was leaving UCF?

Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): I’m not surprised. I think we saw the writing on the wall once Dillon Gabriel started lighting things up last year. Maybe there was some hope KZ would come back and get some garbage time minutes, just so his last snap as a UCF Knights wasn’t the one that nearly severed his leg. I know that was my hope. But KZ is a smart kid. He knows the score. To get another shot at playing he has to, well, play. So it has to be somewhere else.

Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener): I was happy for him. How can you be mad or upset at someone who is doing what’s best for them and chasing their dreams? Especially when that person is someone you admire. Yes, maybe it stings that we won’t see him take another snap for UCF, but the fact that we’re even having this conversation is miraculous. He hasn’t taken a snap in two years and he will take a snap someday. I’ll always support the Knights and McKenzie’s a Knight no matter what.

Eric Lopez (@EricLopezELO): Excited because it is one step closer to something that I did not think was going to happen, which is Milton actually attempting to play. This move is what I was expecting, but I did not expect the presentation UCF had. Credit to all involved for that.

Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy): My first thought was that I picked a really poor time to step away from the internet to grab some coffee. When I returned, everything had blown up. I was and remain ecstatic for KZ. I couldn’t stop smiling while watching that UCF-produced video package because I knew what this meant: McKenzie Milton is going to get his chance somewhere to be a starting college football quarterback once again. I know UCF fans are dismayed that won’t happen here, but I think they understand why. This was the natural next step in Milton’s return to football. I can’t wait to see where he gets the opportunity to clear those final hurdles.

Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): I knew it was a matter of when, not if. The timing was perfect and having the school help with the production shows that there are no hard feelings on either side, which sometimes can happen with transfers. Milton needs this and UCF knows it. I’m so glad that preposterous idea people had to have Dillon Gabriel redshirt so Milton could start never saw the light of day. It was Gabriel’s team before, but now it’s cemented.

Dani Medina (@danimedinanews): My immediate first thought: “OH S***!” After processing the news, there’s really nothing bad I can say about the situation. McKenzie was a star on and off the field — and his announcement proved just that. He is not a person who would take opportunity away from his teammates just to get a shot in the league. He stepped aside for his brother Dillon to shine. A class act. I wish nothing but the best for KZ, because he earned it.

2) What is your favorite McKenzie Milton moment?

Jeff: I talked about this in our Knight Shift episode. That game in 2017 against Cincinnati was a masterpiece. UCF scored every time they had the ball (and kicked only one field goal) and KZ was just toying with their defense. I’ve never seen a quarterback be so completely locked in and dominant over another opponent in my life at any level of football. I know Cincy wasn’t good that year, but every possession, I was sitting there saying, “My God, it’s just too easy for this guy!”

Jeremy: This is tough. So many to choose from. I remember being in the student section booing him mercilessly during our freshman year along with the rest of the Bounce House, and those boos were a far cry from what we saw in the Conference Championship comeback against Memphis back in 2017. The final three games in ‘17 is the best three-game run in UCF history, and none of that is possible without KZ.

Eric: The flip touchdown at Memphis in 2018 is a signature play that basically describes Milton’s competitiveness.

Brian: I could pick out a couple of heart-stopping plays, such as his heels-over-head touchdown at Memphis in 2018, or this piece of wizardry at the 5:17 mark from the Peach Bowl. But a lot of my favorite Milton moments were borne out of the dozens of media availabilities he did over the years. Unlike Dillon Gabriel, Milton has never been great at coachspeak. He is one of the more honest and thoughtful athletes I’ve ever spoken with at UCF, and that makes him really interesting and engaging. Just speaking with him about ball will stick with me. But of course, the best McKenzie Milton moment has yet to occur.

Andrew: This is a really tough question. How do you choose just one? My favorite aspect of Milton has been his uncanny combination of humility and cocky swagger. His buzzworthy interview talking about Notre Dame and how UCF looked better comparatively after the Pitt game in 2018. There were two things to note in that exchange: One, he called out the pollsters and CFP for their blatant bias. Two, he was right.

Dani: Without a doubt the 2018 Peach Bowl. The atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is something I’ll never forget, largely in part due to McKenzie Milton’s ability to lead a team to victory. I remember watching that game and wondering what our program would look like once he’s gone. I thought it too soon.

3) What is the impact that McKenzie left on the program?

Jeff: His impact is beyond football, and that’s rare. To think we had him and Shaquem Griffin, another transcendent person, on the same roster for two years is amazing in retrospect. He was one of the four key people who saved UCF football from collapse after George O’Leary (along with Scott Frost, Danny White, and Shaquem Griffin), and he should rightly be honored by UCF for that.

Jeremy: I think the best way to define it is the response UCF had when he went down. The first game back — the 2018 Conference Championship — everyone in the stadium wore a lei in support of him. The team responded to his leadership and he didn’t even have to play in the game. The players that always leave the best impressions are the ones that have as much value off the field as they do on the field. McKenzie put UCF on the map both on and off the field and very few players have that kind of influence.

Eric: It is one of most incredible UCF stories any student-athlete can ever tell. Coming from Hawaii to starting as a freshman to being booed to becoming a legend. All quarterbacks moving forward will be compared to him like previous quarterbacks were compared to Daunte Culpepper.

Brian: It’s kind of immeasurable because without him, how sure are we that the UCF Football brand is as strong as it is today? Moveover, to limit McKenzie’s impact to just the program omits a crucial part of his UCF journey. He has not changed just a football program, he has influenced countless others — probably many who don’t even care about football — with his personal story of determination and resilience. What he did from 2017-2018 transformed the UCF football program. What he did and continues to do through his rehab has left a mark on portions of the general populace. That’s impact.

Andrew: Anyone who leads an organization should have the same mentality: To leave that organization in better shape than when you took charge. McKenzie Milton did just that and then some. While he was just a player and not a coach, the quarterback is the face of the franchise. Between his competitive spirit, confident swagger, and compassion for others (hey look, a bunch of C words), he became an excellent ambassador for the football program both on and off the field. Oh yeah, he could play pretty well, too. It’s hard to find people who check all of those boxes. It isn’t coincidence he was chosen as a team captain despite not taking a snap in a game since getting hurt in 2018.

Dani: It’s obvious that McKenzie Milton is a show-stopping quarterback, but it’s his presence off the field that will leave a lasting impact on Knight Nation and his former teammates. He stays above ground, shows love for his fans every opportunity he can and misses no chance to brag about his mom. Who doesn’t want that kind of person leading their team? He knows what it’s like to lead a team on and off the field, and that’s the kind of leader I think our team needs right now in these extremely uncertain times.

4) What school does McKenzie Milton play for in 2021?

Jeff: I’ll throw in an interesting idea: UCLA. Nebraska and Ole Miss would have been my top choices, but they have QBs. UCLA doesn’t. It’s a power conference school out west (not as long a flight back home to Hawai’i), and the head coach is Chip Kelly, under whom Scott Frost was a coach at Oregon.

Jeremy: My gut tells me Nebraska. He reunites with Scott Frost and they give B1G defenses everything they’ve got. Some of the best defenses in the country reside in the Big Ten, which gives Milton the best opportunity to showcase his skills against an elite level of talent.

Eric: I may write about this next week in depth. Nebraska is a heavy favorite for obvious reasons, but perhaps it is too obvious. I think Florida State is a sleeper here as the Seminoles’ quarterback situation is a disaster. Jordan Travis is FSU’s front runner going into 2021, but he cannot stay healthy and is a questionable passer. Chubba Purdy has been hurt twice and is a question mark. Florida State also lost four-star recruit Luke Altmyer this week as he decommitted. I think Milton has a clear shot to start there, but the Noles’ offensive line is terrible, and I have been told by people with knowledge of the situation that Milton will look at programs that have good offensive line play. Miami is another one to watch if D’Eriq King leaves. Going back home to play for Hawaii also would make sense.

Brian: Don’t know. I have repeatedly said I want him to go to Nebraska only because it makes for the best story. But I have no insight here, so I’ll just sit back and wait for Milton to choose his destination. I think Jeff actually had the best answer to this on Thursday.

Andrew: He needs to go somewhere with an offensive line that will keep him upright. Ole Miss is a possibility because of his connection with Jeff Lebby and Kevin Smith, but I’m thinking a west coast school in the PAC-12 or even Hawaii could be a good destination. Why not go home and play in front of friends and family?

Dani: At the risk of sounding cheesy, I don’t care where KZ ends up as long as he’s happy. And as long as it’s not Nebraska.