Former UCF and Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton took the first step toward a coaching career on Thursday, getting hired as an offensive analyst at Tennessee and reuniting with coach Josh Heupel.
Milton played for Heupel at UCF from 2018-20, before he finished his career at Florida State in 2021.
"I'm just excited to get back into football. I missed it a bunch," Milton told ESPN in an interview from the Tennessee football office on his first day on the job.
A trip to Tennessee in March to watch spring practice got Milton thinking once again about his ultimate career goal: getting into coaching. Heupel reached out last month to gauge his interest in joining the staff as an analyst. Milton called the decision to come to Tennessee a "no brainer." In addition to the ties to Heupel, Tennessee athletic director Danny White was at UCF when Milton was there as well.
"Tennessee is a special, special place, and I got to see that in March when I came up here to check out spring practice and Pro Day," Milton said. "What makes a place truly special is the people. I've known half the staff in some way, shape or form from prior places I've been, so it just felt right."
Milton began his college career at UCF in 2016, leading the Knights to an undefeated, self-proclaimed national championship the following season. But in 2018, Milton suffered a devastating injury that nearly forced the amputation of his right leg. He missed the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but Heupel made sure Milton kept his spot as a team leader. Milton was instrumental in the development of the quarterbacks -- particularly Dillon Gabriel, now at Oklahoma.
He also grew close with both White and Heupel, who both left for Tennessee in 2021. White and Heupel supported Milton during his long, arduous rehab, never once dissuading him from trying to play football again. When Milton completed his three-year journey and made his return to the field with the Seminoles, both White and Heupel sent well-wishes.
"McKenzie represents everything that is great about college football," Heupel said in a statement. "His perseverance, determination and leadership are attributes that made him successful as a player and will no doubt translate to him being an outstanding future coach. He's always been a student of the game and understands the why behind what we do."
Once his playing career ended, Milton moved back to Orlando, Florida, and spent the past year coaching camps and clinics and working on NIL opportunities with UCF. But Milton knew eventually, he wanted to get into coaching full time. Though he will not have an on-field role this year with the Vols, Milton plans to learn as much as he can about all position groups, and special teams as well.
"I just want to be a sponge, just learning from the head ball coach, learning from everybody," Milton said. "To truly be a great coach, you have to be a master of all."