Exum has shown a big heart. (US Presswire)
Earlier this month, Antone Exum passed on the NFL for another season on campus. Now, he faces a new hurdle to getting back on the field this fall after tearing his right ACL and meniscus in a pickup basketball game, a setback expected to cost him six to nine months in recovery. Virginia Tech confirmed the injury on Sunday, and Exum is expected to undergo knee surgery later this week.
On his Twitter feed, Exum wrote that Sunday was "the worst day of my life," but promised "I will come back stronger than I've ever been." Virginia Tech's season opener is set for Aug. 31 in Atlanta, against the two-time defending BCS champion, Alabama.
As a junior in 2012, Exum started every game at cornerback, was named MVP of the Russell Athletic Bowl and tied for the ACC lead with five interceptions, good enough for a second-team all-conference nod from league coaches. Exum has started 29 games over the last three years at both corner and safety, more than any other returning Hokie, and is widely considered the best cover man on the roster.
If you recall, it was Exum who displayed generosity and an understanding of the holiday spirit by using some of his bowl swag to help make Christmas special for three boys in the Orlando-area.
Virginia Tech allowed more points per game in 2012 (22.9) than in any season since joining the ACC in 2004, despite finishing second in the conference in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Besides Exum, Tech expects to return the rest of the secondary, including fellow corner Kyle Fuller and safeties Kyoshen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner, all of whom started all 13 games last year. If Exum is forced to miss any time, his most likely understudy will be one of two sophomores, Donovan Riley or Donaldven Manning, who saw limited time as true freshmen.
Before he announced his intention to return to school earlier this month, Exum was considered a likely second- or third-round pick in the draft, due in part to his unusual size (Virginia Tech lists him at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds) for the position. His decision to return broke a 14-year streak in which at least one Hokies defensive back has come off the board.