ORLANDO, Fla. -- UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton told a teammate he was able to take some steps over the weekend for the first time since suffering a devastating knee injury against South Florida last Friday.
Milton remains hospitalized at Tampa General, and coach Josh Heupel and teammates have been to visit. Milton took a helmet to his right knee on a scramble during UCF's 38-10 win, and his leg bent at an awkward angle. He had surgery on Saturday.
Teammate Jordan Johnson, one of Milton's best friends, said in an interview Monday that he spoke with Milton over the weekend on FaceTime and that Milton said he had taken some steps for the first time since his surgery. It's unclear whether Milton was able to take a few steps on his own or whether he needed assistance to walk.
UCF has not released the exact nature of the injury, and Heupel said it would be up to the Milton family to release more details.
"I called him to see how he was doing, and he was letting us know that he's there for us," Johnson said. "He wants to see us succeed, so we're out there playing for McKenzie. We want to go out there and win for him. It was all good vibes. I told him it was good to see him smiling. He said that he got to walk the other day, and he never appreciated walking as much."
Heupel said Milton has been in good spirits.
"He's been really positive," Heupel said. "The first thing he asked about before I even got up there was the game. He wanted to know what the final of the game was. Then you talk to him, and his next thought is turning to this ballgame and his teammates. He cares deeply about what he and the team's put into this season, expects us to go out and play in a great way. His thoughts will be with us on game day certainly."
UCF must prepare to face Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Saturday without Milton, but there is no shortage of confidence in backup Darriel Mack Jr., who played well in relief against USF.
But everybody inside the UCF football building understands Milton is at the forefront of their thoughts.
UCF announced Tuesday that it will distribute 40,000 leis to fans who attend Saturday's game against Memphis, in honor of Milton's roots in Hawaii.
"Everyone in our program has great love and respect for McKenzie and our thoughts and prayers are constantly with him," Heupel said. "At the same time, we're gonna go out and play our hearts out. He'll be a part of who and what we're doing on the field, there's absolutely no doubt about that."
There is no update on when Milton will be released from the hospital, or whether it's possible for him to attend the game on Saturday.
"There's been an outpouring of support for him, and he's appreciative, and he'll fight back," Heupel said. "The hurdles he's had to clear up until this point, he's cleared in typical McKenzie fashion. He hurdles them and does a great job. He's got more in front of him, but he's a fighter. He's a competitor. He'll be back."