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The rising senior said he’s lucky that his ACL and meniscus injury came when it did.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum (1) prepares to intercept a pass against Rutgers.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Fresh out of knee surgery, Antone Exum was too heavily medicated to remember the specifics, but his mom told him what happened.
Virginia Tech’s All-ACC cornerback had surgery in Pensacola, Fla., on Feb. 5 to repair the ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and a bone fracture in his right knee, a significant injury he suffered playing pickup basketball the previous week.
It was done by famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, a Birmingham-based doctor who is a big Alabama fan and serves as a consultant to the Crimson Tide’s medical staff.
Exum, a rising senior whose ambitious goal is to return for the Hokies’ season opener against the Crimson Tide in Atlanta on Aug. 31, couldn’t help but engage in a little friendly smack talk, despite his condition.
“[Andrews] went up to my mom and was like, ‘He’s delirious in there. All he keeps saying is how he’s going to be back for Alabama and they’re going to beat Alabama,’ ” Exum said. “So I guess that was the first thing on my mind.”
Whether he can make it back in time for the Alabama game remains to be seen. Exum’s rehab timetable of 6-8 months would put the opener in doubt.
Still early in his rehab — he remains on crutches because of the fracture and has recently resumed quad exercises, leg extensions and mini-squats to regain strength in his leg — Exum said he’ll push himself to be back by the opener but listen to the doctors along the way.
“I’m trying to be smart about the situation, but I’m sure further down the line, when I’m feeling a lot better, I’ll probably be, ‘Get me out there. Get me out there,’ ” he said. “I guess when that time comes, we’ll see. But I’m going to push to be out there.”
Exum has taken a positive attitude throughout the ordeal. He’s come to grips with the injury, almost turning it into a positive.
It happened during a pickup basketball game at McComas Hall on campus. At the end of a tight game, he drove into the lane for a layup. He knew it was off and tried to come to the ground and bound up quickly to get the rebound.
He consciously avoided everyone’s feet when coming down initially, but in doing so landed awkwardly.
“I didn’t hear it, but I felt the snap in my leg,” Exum said, describing a pain he hadn’t felt before. “It went backward, like hyperextending, and I went to the ground.”
A trip to the doctor confirmed the ACL tear. But Exum thinks his knee was already less than 100 percent at the time of the injury. He first hurt it against Cincinnati in late September. He ran it off and finished the game but noticed it wasn’t quite right at times for the rest of the season.
“If I would come down wrong, it would just go out for 15, 20 seconds and then it would come back,” Exum said. “It was weird. It would be like, ‘Ahhh.’ Then 20 seconds later, I’d be like, ‘Hold on, coach,’ and hop right back in the drill. …
“I think my meniscus was already torn. Then in basketball, just landing wrong put it over the edge.”
There’s no way to tell now if that was the case, but Exum feels fortunate to have had it happen when it did. He noted that it could have occurred after he declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, which would have sent his stock plummeting.
He’s even more thankful the original injury didn’t linger unnoticed until his senior season.
“I see it as a blessing that it happened when it happened, because … it could have happened during the season or during spring ball or during camp,” he said. “At least now I have time to really rehab it and try to get back.”
Exum has a couple of trips back to Pensacola scheduled, including his six-week checkup in a few weeks. One of those times he’ll get a stem cell injection that Andrews has begun introducing in rehab regimens.
“They’re going to take blood cells from my hip and put them in my knee to kind of get that circulation going a little bit faster,” Exum said. “They have had good success rates for them.”
The injury is a step back, but Exum knows that with modern medical science it’s not a career-ender.
“Injuries are a part of sports, so it’s just something that I have to deal with,” he said. “There have been a lot of guys in recent years that have come back strong from an injury like this, so I wasn’t discouraged or anything that I won’t be back to full form or better.”
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