Former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton plans to transfer to Florida State, he told ESPN on Sunday.
Milton, who has been unable to play for the past two years while rehabbing a devastating right leg injury, said he chose the Seminoles because "it's a great opportunity to play at the biggest level on one of the most historic teams in college football."
"You see Florida State, the garnet and gold, it speaks for itself," Milton said in an exclusive interview. "The notoriety the people that have come through there, Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward, Jameis Winston, it speaks for itself. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity. It's something I don't take for granted, especially what I've been through the past two years. It's a very special opportunity, and I feel like we can get that thing turned around in the near future."
Committed 🍢😤 pic.twitter.com/SvdXF0SrHp— McKenzie Milton (@McKenzieMil10) December 13, 2020
Milton announced last week that he was transferring for his final year of eligibility, seeking an opportunity to compete for a starting quarterback job. He said Florida State coach Mike Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham reached out to him within the first day his name appeared in the transfer portal.
As a three-year starter at UCF from 2016 to '18, Milton was familiar with what Norvell had done during his time at Memphis.
Though he has never visited the campus in person, Milton took a virtual tour and decided fairly quickly he wanted to go play for the Seminoles to help get the program headed in the right direction.
"It's something that really excites me, and I know they've got great players," Milton said. "They're trying to figure out how to win and they had a good win against Duke on Saturday, but I feel like I can bring some experience to some of those young cats and be a good teammate and hopefully get the ball rolling there."
Milton dislocated his right knee and suffered ligament, nerve and artery damage during a game against USF in November 2018. He worked his way back and ran the UCF scout team this past season, hoping for one more shot to start at quarterback. But as it became increasingly clear that Dillon Gabriel was the future at UCF, Milton decided it would be best for everyone to move on.
Going 3½ hours northwest of Orlando keeps him in the state and some familiar territory. He said Norvell asked how he was feeling physically, and Milton said, "I feel like they trust my head and where I'm at, believing in me with that. When I get up there, I'll have to meet with the team doctors, but I'm confident I'll pass anything and everything they'll throw my way."
Florida State has fallen on hard times recently, and is currently 3-6 headed into its final scheduled game of the season against Wake Forest on Saturday. When Milton left UCF, he said he wanted to go to a team in position to win and with a strong offensive line. He said he sees both in the Seminoles.
As for the quarterback position, Milton said he was not guaranteed a starting job. Florida State played four different quarterbacks this season: James Blackman, Jordan Travis and freshmen Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker. Travis has started the bulk of the games, while Blackman has already announced his intention to transfer.
"I'm going to have to go in and earn it, but it's not something where they said you're going to be the guy and that's not something I want," Milton said. "I want to go earn it, I want to earn the respect of the guys, and I just want to be a good teammate to the other quarterbacks, like I was at UCF. At the end of the day, the best guy needs to play, whether it's me or one of the other guys, so it's my job to go out there and earn it every day and hopefully I can do that."
Milton is currently back home in Hawaii working out with his local quarterbacks coach and spending time with his family. He said his plan is to enroll and be on campus for workouts in January, so he can start learning the playbook and getting to know his teammates. And he was also quick to point out that Florida State opens the 2021 season with a Labor Day weekend matchup against Notre Dame on Sept. 5.
"I know it's not going to be an overnight thing, but I don't think they're far off as a program," Milton said. "Coach Norvell has got it headed in the right direction, and I think I bring some experience on how to win and what it takes, and that work ethic. I'm not going in there expecting to be this or that, I just want to be the best teammate possible and whatever knowledge I can instill in those young guys, I'm all in."