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Iowa OL commit Josh Volk is remaining cautious as his ACL recovery nears a finale. Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — From head to toe, Josh Volk looked ready to roll. He emerged from the Cedar Rapids Xavier locker room in full uniform, primed to kick off senior year in riveting fashion. His menacing figure towered over everyone as he walked to midfield for the coin toss.

His night ended there.

Despite dressing, Volk spent the rest of Xavier’s season-opening win on the sidelines — pacing back and forth, trying to keep busy amid anticipation. Volk’s comeback from a torn ACL will have to wait a little longer. The Iowa offensive line commit says he’s ready to roll, but everyone is being extra cautious with the recovery.

Volk knows he’s playing the long game here. He understands, even if last Friday night was difficult to experience.

“It’s a week-by-week thing for physical therapy. They’ll let me know when I’m ready,” said Volk, who’s been a full-go in practice for about two weeks. “But right now, it’s just me going to work five days a week at physical therapy — getting the best I can get. And then come out here and practice every single day.

“I feel 100%. I’m ready to go. I’m really anxious, but we’ve got to take a step back and make sure my ACL is healed and stronger than it was before.”

It’s been almost 10 months since Volk laid crumpled on the UNI-Dome turf, his right ACL torn completely. He watched with mixed feelings as Xavier captured a state title one week later. A magical season with a storybook ending — but one Volk wanted to experience firsthand.

Since then has been a slow climb back to full strength.  

“At the four-month mark from surgery, I was up lifting weights and squatting, and then I was starting to work on one-legged balance stuff,” Volk said. “And then I’ve been progressing ever since, going five days a week to physical therapy. There haven’t been any setbacks. We’re just taking it slow so I can come back stronger.”

Volk emphasized his status is a “week-by-week” deal and that he could return even as early as Friday, when Xavier travels to Decorah. If the Saints want to be super safe, they could hold Volk out until district play commences in Week 5.

Until then, Volk remains patient. The three-star prospect and Iowa Eight selection was all smiles Saturday as he watched the Hawkeyes topple Miami (Ohio) with many of his fellow 2020 commits. Volk said he hears regularly from offensive line coach Tim Polasek and recruiting director Tyler Barnes about his recovery status.

With tons of high-end football ahead, Volk and all who’ve supported know this arduous process will prove beneficial down the road. Injuries are part of the game — and more are bound to happen when playing in the trenches. Overcoming this adversity will only strengthen Volk’s mental toughness.

“This is going to give him a platform to look back on and say, ‘Hey, I overcame that. I can overcome this too’ — no matter what the problem’s going to be,” Xavier coach Duane Schulte said. “Like anybody who’s had that situation, he was a little down at first. It was a struggle those first two weeks. Anybody who’s had an ACL injury knows those first two weeks suck the most. You sometimes take two steps forward and one step back. That’s the nature of that injury.

“But every day has gotten a little bit better.”

The day Volk takes his next snap will be the best. It'll come soon enough. 

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.  

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