Exclusive: Why You Need to Keep an Eye on Hawai‘i Quarterback McKenzie Milton

The Mililani High grad spills on an undefeated season, getting booed and where he’ll play next year.
McKenzie Milton Hawaii
Photo: David Croxford

Mililani standout quarterback McKenzie Milton took time to talk with HONOLULU Magazine to share what it’s like to play with the University of Central Florida Knights: from getting booed by Florida fans to feeling bigtime support from Hawai‘i to his team winning the Peach Bowl.


“Hawai‘i definitely takes care of its own like no other place,” Milton says. “Having that support system from my Mililani family and extended even to the whole state has helped me to stay grounded. They have my back no matter. what it’s very humbling and it’s very cool to be a part of that.”


With Milton leading the charge, the Orlando-based team went undefeated this season to win the American Athletic Conference Football championship, among other honors. “I know there’s no individual success without team success, so I think winning the Peach Bowl is probably the coolest,” he says.


But he’s also felt the sting of the crowd when he got booed in his first season by critical fans. “I’ll definitely never forget that experience,” he says.  “That’s just kind of fuel to your fire. It’s just more motivation. I think I needed to go through that to get to this point now.”


The youngest of four brothers, Milton says growing up playing a lot of sports helped prepare him for the high-intensity of college ball. “My parents ran the Waipi‘o Football Youth program for a number of years.”


McKenzie Milton Hawaii
Photo: Courtesy of University of Central Florida


And he credits Mililani coach Rod York: “All of that kind of prepared, molded me to get to this point now.”


He’s honored to be compared to another Hawai‘i quarterback who shares his initials, Marcus Mariota. “That’s some big shoes to fill. I definitely look to Marcus as a role model, the way he carries himself off the field and definitely the way he plays the game.”


We tracked him down on Friday, Jan. 19, as he paid a visit to his alma mater, Mililani High School, just before he spoke to a class there.


Because he needed to be in Atlanta on Dec. 26 for the Peach Bowl, Milton wasn’t able to make it home to Hawai‘i for Christmas. And he could only squeeze in a three-night visit before heading back to school.


Born in Wahiawā, he’s 20, 5-feet-11-inches, 185 pounds and a sophomore, majoring in sports and exercise science, with an eye toward coaching football someday.


Where will he play next year? “I’m definitely going to be at UCF, there’s no question,” even though coach Scott Frost, who recruited him, just left for his own alma mater at the University of Nebraska. “There’s no question I wouldn’t be here without Coach Frost but I fell in love with this school and I think Coach [Josh] Heupel and these guys will do great things as well.”


Learn more about Milton from our interview with this low-key athlete in a future issue and find out what advice he has for other Hawai‘i students headed for Mainland college life.