HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In just a few short years, McKenzie Milton went from winning state titles and Hawaii player of the year awards with Mililani, to an undefeated season and Peach Bowl Offensive MVP accolades as the quarterback for UCF.
But with a new season full of changes ahead, the former Trojan recently took the little free time he has this off-season to return to his roots here in the 808.
"You know it's been awesome," said Milton before working out with Hawaii-based trainer Kenny Patton. "Hawaii always takes care of their own."
Following a storybook season with the Knights, Milton says his brief time here on the islands has been filled with congratulations from fans who have followed him since his high school days when dominated at Aloha Stadium with the Trojans.
And, as he rose to nation notaritey last year while quarterbacking UCF to a 13-0 record, he says called on great QB's of the past who also made headlines for making plays on that same field in Halawa as his sources of inspiration.
"It's been surreal," said Milton the Knights' success in 2017. "You know, that's something you dream about a kid. You know growing up I watched U.H. football at it's finest with Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang and all those guys.
You know seeing what Marcus Mariota did at Oregon, that's something you dream about. From where we came to where we're at now - going from an 0-12 team, to a 6-7 team, to a 13-0 team, that's something you can't write up. That's like a fairy tale in a novel."
But, next year some of the main characters in that novel will be different. Most notably at the head coaching position. Following UCF's win in the Peach Bowl over Auburn, then head coach, Scott Frost, returned to his alma mater, Nebraska to take the HC job in Lincoln.
Replacing him is former Missouri OC Josh Heupel - who made the Tigers one of the most prolific offensive teams in the nation last season.
"For me I think it's a great opportunity to learn from another great offensive mind," said Milton of the coaching change. "Just be a sponge and absorb all the knowledge I can football wise. It's going to be a great year of growth for me I think.
We've got a great core group of guys coming back. We returned seven starters on each side of the ball. It's going to be a great year to step up as a leader."