Knee injury won’t stop UCF’s J.J. Worton from his NFL dream


Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

J.J. Worton finished his UCF career with 168 receptions for 2,360 yards and 21 touchdowns in his four seasons.

As the UCF Knights football team prepares for a chance to clinch a share of the American Athletic Championship on Thursday, senior wide receiver J.J. Worton is preparing for a completely different challenge: undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Worton tore the ACL in his left knee during a 53-7 win over SMU on Nov. 22 on a special teams play after making an uncomfortable cut. Head coach George O’Leary announced last Friday that Worton would miss the rest of the season following that injury, effectively ending Worton’s career at UCF.

“I knew Coach was going to make the announcement but I didn’t know he was going to do it right then and there,” Worton said. “On that bus ride I kind of turned my phone off and about half way through I turned it on just to check if I had messages and my phone just erupted with social media; I kind of have a little bit of an emotional break down on the bus ride. I had my friends and the coaches around me to calm me down and tell me that all of the support like that is what you need to come back and motivate you to be even better so it’s another road just to get to the NFL.”

Despite suffering the injury, which could take up to nine months to fully rehabilitate, Worton is staying true to his dreams and vows to play in the NFL. He is going to lean on his friends and coaches to get through the surgery process with one of those friends being former teammate Blake Bortles, who is now the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I talked to Blake, we’ve been texting back and forth; he’s been encouraging just as well,” Worton said. “Having good friends like that, which are in the NFL and around people that have been through the surgeries like that is just another way to motivate me just to get back.”

It was last season that put both Worton and Bortles on the map. The two led the Knights to a 12-1 record, which included a win the Fiesta Bowl against No. 13 Baylor. Bortles passed for a career-high 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns during that season while Worton posted career-highs in receptions (47), yards (721) and touchdowns (7). Most fans would recognize Worton’s career moment at UCF as “The Catch” against Temple, but Worton said the Fiesta Bowl win is his favorite moment.

“Winning that game is just a feeling that I’ll never probably be able to match unless I win a Super Bowl,” Worton said. “Everyone doubted us, we went through an unbelievable and emotional season and for us to end it that way and send out the seniors and best friends I had on the team like that was such an unbelievable feeling.”

As Worton’s career at UCF winds down, he begins the next step of his football career. Worton is currently waiting to be cleared by doctors to undergo surgery and the process of getting into the NFL will begin immediately after.

“It just all depends on how fast I recover; everyone is different,” said Worton on when he’ll begin training for the NFL. “Right now I don’t know what the time frame is going to be, I’m trying to get the surgery as soon as possible once the doctor clears me to go but from there we’ll find out about Pro Day or the draft.”