Teresa Milton watched the NBA Finals in June as a general sports fan, not emotionally invested in either the Golden State Warriors or the Toronto Raptors. But when she saw Kevin Durant come back from injury and get hurt again, she had a visceral reaction.
Milton went into her bedroom and cried, struck by a lightning bolt of clarity about her own son.
“I watched it and said to myself, ‘I get McKenzie now,’ “ she told Yahoo Sports.
The fourth of her four boys is McKenzie Milton, Central Florida quarterback. In a season flush with excellent college QBs, we are down a good man — the heart and soul of the Knights’ 2017-18 run will not play this year, still recovering from the horrific leg injury he suffered the day after Thanksgiving. But he dreams of playing football again, pushing himself through painful and tedious rehab, unwilling to limp away from the sport that broke him.
And now Teresa Milton understands why.
“He just keeps going,” she said. “I think he’s crazy, but I have to support him. He wants to come back for the love of the team. I watched the NBA Finals and I got it. I cried but I said, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to do it.’”
Wanting to do it and doing it are two different things, of course. Even nine months later, Milton’s road to full recovery remains daunting.
Last Saturday, he got out of a golf cart and walked with a noticeable hitch into the UCF stadium for an interview. The black brace and accompanying sleeve are still constant companions on his right leg, worn at all times except showering and sleeping and some rehab exercises. Through the sleeve you can see that the knee remains swollen, while the rest of his body is thin.
Milton has come a long way — farther than many doctors expected at this stage. Yet he's still a long way from playing shape, and longer still from being the crafty, dynamic quarterback who finished in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy voting each of the past two years while leading the Knights to 24 straight victories.
The simple act of running remains months in the distance — maybe January, doctors and trainers say. In the meantime UCF opens Thursday night against Florida A&M, so for the first time since first grade there will be a football season without him.