Planet Claire has pink air. All the trees are red. — B52s “Planet Claire”
—BEDROCK SPORTS HAWAII EXCLUSIVE—
When McKenzie Milton walked on the field at Doak Campbell Stadium on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday, it was bonus upon bonus upon bonus upon bonus, ad infinitum.
And by bonus, we’re talking about that word the way Dr. Bruce Levy used it soon after Milton suffered a devastating, life-threatening knee injury in a college football game for UCF in 2018. This is a paraphrase of what Levy’s quotes in the Tampa Bay Times about that touch-and-go time for Milton: Goal number one: Make it through surgery without losing his leg. Goal number two: Walk without pain again. And the verbatim words: “Anything above that would be a bonus.”
And so, when you look back and you realize that three years later, former Mililani and UCF star McKenzie Milton is not only back with a football team (after a transfer to the Seminoles), he’s now on the field playing the game he’s so incredibly good at. Simply put, that’s amazingly incredible.
McKenzie Milton made his Florida State debut Sunday, an incredible comeback story. (Image credit: WCTV.tv).
His father, Mark Milton, was there on Sunday in Tallahassee to witness what at one point seemed to most people as close to as impossible as you can get.
“That was a surreal scene in the fourth quarter,” Mark Milton told Bedrock Sports Hawaii on Monday. “That stadium was rocking with the Tomahawk chop and it ended up being a competitive game. It was great to see KZ play the game he loves again at a high level. That was an electric atmosphere with over 70,000 fans.”
Along with Mark Milton to witness the amazing moment were McKenzie’s mom Teresa and his two brothers, Matt and Michael. Also there was Joel Lane, who has been McKenzie’s personal quarterback coach for many years and still works with him whenever McKenzie is in Hawaii, and about 70 other friends from Hawaii and the mainland.
“It was obviously amazing to get to see him play,” said Lane, a former Saint Louis School star quarterback, Class of 1993. “I’m so happy and so proud of him and all of his hard work and his faith and his never giving up on on his dream of coming back and playing football.
“The stadium was electric when he came into the game. I had never been to a game at Florida State, with all that glitz and glamour of a big-time program. It was wild being in the stands, hearing them chant his name. The crowd got so excited. They were down by like 10 with nine minutes left and things had gotten kind of silent. When McKenzie came in and completed his first pass, the crowd erupted and they ended up scoring a TD. They also went crazy when he came in for his second series and they had the momentum and that really juiced the crowd.”
Lane spoke with Milton on the phone after the game.
“He said his leg felt good and was excited to be back out there,” Lane said. “Like any competitor, he really wanted to be on the field. And he was trying to help (starter) Jordan Travis any way he could. Very respectful.”
Milton brought the Seminoles into a tie to end regulation, but they lost 41-38 to Notre Dame in overtime.
Lane remembers what it was like on Sundays when Milton was still playing for Mililani.
“The kid would play Saturday night and the game would end at 10,” Lane said. “At 11, he’d be asking me if we were going to throw tomorrow and he would always be out there that next day. That’s one of the things that’s gotten him to the level he’s gotten to. He would rally the guys to come out and catch balls.. Now, any time he’s home since his freshman year at UCF, he brings the guys out — a lot of Mililani guys and receivers from other schools — to catch balls. He’ll throw for an hour and work on other things.”
‘Iolani assistant coaches Tonee Suetsugu, Joel Lane and Myles Arakawa were on hand
to watch McKenzie Milton’s comeback game at Florida State. Lane is Milton’s
Hawaii quarterback coach. (Image credit: Courtesy of Joel Lane).
At Mililani, Milton was a star quarterback, leading the Trojans to the top-tier state championship in 2014, the school’s first, and throwing for a 7,303 yards. In three seasons at UCF, Milton threw for 8,683 yards.
Outside and inside Doak Campbell Stadium on Sunday.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Joel Lane).
There will be more workouts with Lane because Milton wants to take the next step to the NFL.
“Of course the NFL is a goal for McKenzie,” Lane said. “That has never wavered — as bad as this injury was. When I got to see him roll out and move around, it was chicken skin. He was looking like himself.”
A miracle comeback? Yes. Brought on by a higher power, says Milton.
“God is real,” Milton is quoted as saying in a game story by The Athletic’s Manny Navaroo. “Nobody has ever come back from an injury like this. It’s the answer of prayer. Thousands of people praying for me. Coaches believing in me. I’m not here without all the prayers and people believing in me.”
RELATED STORIES THROUGH THE YEARS BY
Bedrocks Sports Hawaii REPORTER NICK ABRAMO:
>> From Jan. 14, 2021: Santa To 3 Hawaii Reindeer — On Kyler Halvorsen, On Christian Rapis, On McKenzie Milton
>> From Aug. 30, 2015: Wondering Why Scouts Don’t Flock To See McKenzie Milton
>> From Nov. 22, 2014: Mililani Drops Surrealistic Prep Bomb