Triumphant return? UCF’s Gabriel hints fellow Mililani alum Milton could play Friday

  • Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) warms up as quarterback McKenzie Milton watches before the team’s NCAA college football game against the Tulsa, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

It’s been two years since McKenzie Milton last played competitive football after the Central Florida quarterback suffered a devastating knee injury during the Knights’ regular-season finale against USF on Nov. 23, 2018. Since then, Milton has suffered through multiple surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation in an attempt to return to action.

All of those sacrifices may pay off this week.

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Current Central Florida quarterback and fellow Mililani (Oahu) alum Dillon Gabriel, who is close friends with Milton, hinted something special could happen on Friday when the Knights return to Raymond James Stadium.

“If I was a fan, I would want it to be a surprise, so I can’t say yes and I can’t say no. We’ll just see what happens,” Gabriel said when asked about the significance of Milton’s return this week to Tampa. “I know KZ is going great mentally and physically. He’s ready to do so when he’s ready to do so. I’m going to let that be it and see what happens.”

When pressed to say whether fans should be watching for something out of Milton, Gabriel was coy.

“I would be honest, there are a bunch of surprises. I would sit back and see,” Gabriel said. “I’m not saying he is, I’m not saying he isn’t. Who knows and we’ll see.”

Milton’s journey began 24 months ago when he suffered a horrific knee injury during the first half against USF. He was transported to Tampa General Hospital, where he had surgery to repair damaged nerves and restore blood flow to his lower right leg. The injury nearly forced doctors to amputate his leg.

His first surgery started less than three hours after the injury, one of the many factors that opened the door to his recovery.

Milton endured multiple surgeries and one doctor told him 50% of people who suffer the same injury usually have to have the leg amputated because the artery has been too damaged or severed and it’s too late to get the blood flow back to the leg.

He was in a wheelchair or on crutches for the first five months following the surgery and it wasn’t until earlier this year that doctors cleared him to ditch a restrictive brace for a less bulky one that allowed him to increase his physical activities.

He received clearance from his doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in August to return to practice and recently began working out with the team in full pads. He also took over as quarterback for the scout team.

“He’s a pretty good one,” coach Josh Heupel said when asked how good of a scout team quarterback Milton has been Knights. “It’s great to see him out there and playing with bodies around him and doing some of the things he’s accustomed to doing before the injury.”

Milton was featured on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday, sharing his grueling recovery process.

“I believe I’ll play football again,” Milton told ESPN Tom Rinaldi, reiterating the faith he has shared throughout his recovery process.

Murschel writes for the Orlando Sentinel

Tupuola-Fetui feted again

Two days after Washington thumped Arizona 44-27 inside Husky Stadium to move to 2-0, three Huskies — defensive lineman of the week Zion Tupuola-Fetui, offensive lineman of the week Luke Wattenberg and freshman of the week Dylan Morris — received weekly Pac-12 honors.

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A redshirt sophomore outside linebacker, Tupuola-Fetui has received the honor in back-to-back weeks — which coincides with his first two career starts. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from Honolulu notched three tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup in the win over Arizona, and the Pearl City alum has compiled four sacks and two forced fumbles in just two games.

– Mike Vorel, the Seattle Times

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