Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum took the blue jersey that injured Hokies players wear during practice and wrapped it around his shoulders Monday night. He has grown tired of the stigma it carries, that despite his tireless work ethic, he is not yet ready to cover receivers, tackle or perform any of the other tasks a cornerback is asked to do over the course of a game.
But Exum’s return is fast approaching, and Exum has a specific date in mind.
The senior said Monday night that he would like to return to the field in time for Virginia Tech’s home game against ACC Coastal Division rival North Carolina on Oct. 5.
Exum, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery performed last February, added he will visit with renowned orthopedist James Andrews on Saturday in Pensacola, Fla., and hopes to be cleared in time for practice next Monday.
“I said I wasn’t gonna make anymore [goals] because they’ve all been kind of erased, but yeah, that’s my goal right now,” Exum said.
The Glen Allen, Va., native originally planned to be back in the lineup for the Hokies’ season opener against Alabama, but a follow-up appointment with Andrews in the beginning of August revealed Exum’s knee needed at least two more months to heal. Nonetheless, Exum still speculated that he could return in time for Virginia Tech’s game against Marshall this past week, or the ACC opener Thursday at Georgia Tech at the latest.
That, though, wasn’t in the cards considering the severity of Exum’s injury, which he suffered playing pick-up basketball on campus in late January. He tore his ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and suffered a bone fracture in his right knee.
Though Exum hasn’t experienced any setbacks since joining Virginia Tech’s second-team defense in practice over the past week, he still has yet to go through “real football contact.” Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said previously the team would like the blessing of Andrews before Exum returns to full action.
The redshirt senior admitted Monday that not playing the first four games of this season has made him restless, but expressed satisfaction with how the Hokies have played early on.
“It’s definitely been hard just sitting back watching, but you know it’s helped that the defense has really been successful,” Exum said. “Those young guys have really stepped up and playing well in my absence. So that’s kind of helped the process a little bit. . . . They stepped in and played almost like veteran guys.”
Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said last week that Exum would return to the starting lineup once he’s healthy again, and Exum noted Monday that the coaches have already told him “I’m gonna get my spot back when I get back.”
He had an ACC-high 16 pass break-ups and a team-high five interceptions during his first year as a cornerback last season. And if Exum is expecting to experience any lingering effects from his injury, he wasn’t ready to disclose them Monday.
When asked if he ever wakes up in the morning with knee pain anymore, Exum smiled and quickly shot back, “I think I’m pretty much past those days.”