Between extensive work around the training facility and travel to national quarterback camps, there didn’t appear to be a lot of room for UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton to have fun away from football. However, he still had time for a trip home to Hawaii to attend his older brother’s wedding. His plus one? Knights center Jordan Johnson.
“It was one of the most fun times I’ve had in my life,” Johnson said. “I’m glad McKenzie chose me to go out there and experience it with him.”
In moving from Hawaii to Orlando, starting as a freshman, being booed in his first bowl game and then coming back to post a historic sophomore season that included a perfect 13-0 record, the last couple of years have been a whirlwind for Milton. Even after all of that, nothing seemed to slow down this summer for the rising junior.
Back in June, Milton worked with high school prospects at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana. The camp, hosted by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning, gave him an opportunity to coach younger players while also learning from three guys with 46 NFL seasons between them.
Weeks later, he spent time as a counselor at the Elite 11 Finals, working with some of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks. Milton didn’t take either experience for granted.
“The Manning camp, getting to learn from Peyton, Eli and Archie, probably three of the best quarterbacks of all time, that’s something you dream about,” Milton said. “I’ve heard of the camp throughout high school. I’ve obviously heard of the Elite 11. I didn’t get invited in high school, but I got to go there as a counselor, which is even cooler in my opinion.”
Milton, who threw for 4,037 yards and 37 touchdowns while running for 613 and eight in 2017, also faced a transition this offseason as he got settled with UCF’s new coaching staff. The Hawaii product will have to adjust to some offensive tweaks while also handling the pressure of following up last year’s significant success.
Amidst the traveling and adjustments, his focus on the upcoming season has been there the whole way. New Knights coach Josh Heupel knows the work that his quarterback has been putting in in addition to the opportunities outside of Orlando.
“The Manning camp, I think it’s great because he gets the opportunity to get around those guys and see what makes them tick and also ask them questions,” Heupel said. “Going out to Elite 11, interacting with other great players and high school kids, getting a chance to maybe even go out and compete a little bit. I think those are invaluable experiences.”
There’s been plenty of work in both the weight room and meeting rooms, but adding flexibility has been another focus for the 5-foot-11 signal-caller.
“I took yoga class last year throughout the fall,” he said. “[And] coach [Kurt] Schmidt incorporated Wednesday yoga for the whole team, which I thought was a great asset for us in the offseason.”
With football camps, training for the upcoming season, yoga and a wedding, Milton’s summer seemed to have a little bit of everything. But now, he’s ready to get the 2018 season rolling. He knows he and his teammates have a lot to prove as they look to defend their AAC title.
“Coming off a winning year, teams might tend to get lackadaisical in the way they approach things. They might get complacent. That can’t be us,” he said. “We’re not gonna catch anybody off guard now. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot in this conference.”