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.”
Read the entire thing here. It covers Exum’s rehab timetable and the fact that he thinks his knee was already weakened from an injury earlier last season against Cincinnati.
I couldn’t get everything into the story. Here’s some leftover stuff:
– Near the end of the story, I note that Exum said he will be getting a stem cell injection by Dr. Andrews during one of his visits to Pensacola in the next few weeks. According to this ESPN.com article from December, this method is becoming more common. Why is this so helpful? The story says “stem cells are unique in that they can become any other type of cell, including that elusive articular cartilage.” Exum said that they’ll essentially take blood cells from his hip and inject them in his knee to aid the healing process.
– Here’s an interesting line from that article that should be encouraging for Hokies fans: “Andrews has mostly employed stem cells in the deteriorated knees of football players, and virtually all of them have reported significant decreases in pain and inflammation. ‘It’s early,’ he says, ‘but the results have been remarkable.’”
– Who exactly has had this type of treatment? It’s tough to say. Andrews doesn’t advertise it, although it is believed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had it, and his rehab time for an ACL tear last year was remarkably quick. Exum said he thinks South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore also had a stem cell injection.
– That’s not to say that Exum’s injury is as serious as Lattimore’s. Or, as he described it: “It wasn’t like a Willis McGahee or anything like that.”
– When Virginia Tech’s new assistant coaches were introduced at the end of January, Exum was joking with people in the back of the interview room, boasting about his basketball prowess. He even had a friendly back-and-forth with men’s basketball coach James Johnson about his skills. That’s when he got the urge to play some pickup hoops. “When they asked me to play, I was like, ‘Damn, I do miss playing,’” Exum said. “It was just unfortunate, I guess.”
– Exum’s heard from plenty of fans who have been quick to pass judgment on him for getting injured playing pickup basketball, although he was hardly the only Virginia Tech football player out there. “It’s always the guy who gets hurt that gets all the stupidity comments of, ‘Why were you out there doing that?’” Exum said. “And I’m like, ‘Man, there were like 15 other guys out there playing with me.’ I should have learned my lesson because Darius Redman was out there and he rolled his ankle in the game before I got hurt. And he was like, ‘Naw, I’m sitting out, man.’ I should have listened in my head then, like, ‘Man, maybe I need to get out of here too.’”
– But, he doesn’t think like that too often. It goes against his nature. “At the end of the day, we’re athletes, competitors,” Exum said. “That’s probably my biggest issue is how competitive I am. Because the game was on the line. I’m going to the rim full force. It wasn’t like I was just chilling out there just taking shots. I was really trying to win the game, which I do anytime I compete in something. And I guess I should have just taken it easy a little bit.”
– Exum’s still on crutches for now, although he can walk on his own power. “They don’t want to irritate the bone fracture,” he said. “They want to give that cartilage time to heal, so they’re keeping me on crutches so I don’t irritate that.”
– He said sophomores Donaldven Manning and Donovan Riley will be taking his reps with the first team at cornerback in the spring. “At the end of the day, it can only help us and build more for them guys to get experience like that, otherwise they wouldn’t get that experience,” Exum said. “So I’m sure the coaches will use that as an evaluation tool for some of the young guys and how they progress over the spring. Like I said, just use it as a developmental period mentally and physically.”
– If you missed Exum’s second rap video on YouTube, you can watch it here. His mom took the video of him rehabbing his knee early and getting ready for the operation.