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McKenzie Milton Has Been Cleared to Practice in Pads

UCF and Milton displayed the photographic evidence on social media Tuesday

McKenzie Milton looks on during the UCF Knights’ season-opening game at Georgia Tech on Sept. 19, 2020.
Photo: UCF Athletics

McKenzie Milton has reached yet another milestone. On Tuesday, we got our first glimpse since Novemeber 2018 of Milton practicing in full pads, donning the red, non-contact jersey that all quarterbacks wear. Here is the photographic evidence via UCF Football and Milton’s Instagram page:

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Prayers go up & the blessings come down!

A post shared by McKenzie Milton (@mckenziemil10) on

UCF Knights co-offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said Wednesday that Milton remains the heartbeat of the team’s offense despite spending the past 22 months rehabing his right knee. Although Milton’s return to practice is another big step toward his ultimate goal of seeing game action once again, the Knights will continue to take it slow and steady with him.

“He’s physically ready right now in terms of cleared to practice and cleared to have people around him,” Golesh said. “There’s a huge mental side of it as well, going through what he went through. To be able to play that position, that position is really hard to play if you’re not 100%. There’s a confidence factor. There’s bodies all around you at all times. You’ve got to be able to move in the pocket, move out of the pocket in this offense.

“I think we’re just being really, really smart with him. Letting him get comfortable doing everything, from getting his snap to dropping back to handing the ball off to getting hit. It’s been two years since people have been around him in terms of a football situation.

“He’s 23; he knows when he’ll be ready. And whenever he says he is, we’ll be ready to play him in whatever role that is.”

Golesh also spoke on the bond between Milton and starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel. We know the two Mililani High grads are like brothers off the field, but Golesh said Milton has taken to the role of mentor and part-time psychologist for the Knights’ rising star.

“I think the fact that him and Dillon are so close — you can see every time Dillon comes off the field, the guy sitting next to him has been KZ. He is that calming voice for Dillon on the sideline. He’s been through it. The relationship they have is incredible. It’s been really fascinating to watch him grow in that role as well.”

Gabriel said a couple of weeks ago that he knows Milton’s return to game action is “not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

The exact “when” is still unknown. But given how far Milton has come and how hard he continues to work, it’s becoming easier and easier to believe that the “when” is coming.