LINCOLN — Joe Dworak reported for Shrine Bowl camp without trepidation.

But how? It had been nine months since he had contact on the football field. How would his knee, which he hurt last August and cost him his senior seasons in football and basketball at Lincoln Pius X, hold up?

The wide receiver said he was glad to be back in pads.

“I almost forgot what it felt like, because it’s been so long,’’ Dworak said. “My knee feels good, as it has throughout the whole rehab process.

“Going into this game, I feel as confident as I was before I got hurt.”

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Dworak, who is on the South team in Saturday’s game at Kearney, went out with a season-ending ACL injury in Pius X’s preseason scrimmage the week before the 2018 season began. His junior season, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Dworak caught 41 passes for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“At first, it was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with just because I missed the whole football year that I was prepared for, super ready for,’’ Dworak said. “And basketball season as well. Missing both of those was really hard, but then I got used to it.”

Pius X won its first state basketball title in 15 years. Dworak said that eased not being able to be on the court.

His Shrine Bowl invitation came during basketball season, and at first the Benedictine-bound Dworak thought it was a joke on him. But football coach Ryan Kearney approached him about taking it, and Dworak didn’t blink.

“I wasn’t completely ready yet, but I knew the practices and the game were a few months away. I figured by then I’d be pretty much 100 percent,’’ he said.

Glen Snodgrass of York, the coach for the South, said he wanted Dworak if he was healthy.

“Some of the people I talked to at Pius said he might be the most athletic kid they’ve had there in the past 20 years, which is pretty incredible coming from Pius,” Snodgrass said. “He’s having a real good camp so far and he’s going to be a nice player in the game.”

One of Dworak’s Shrine teammates with a similar senior-season injury is John Christensen from Bruning-Davenport/Shickley. A quarterback and linebacker for the Eagles, Christensen tore his ACL and meniscus in the final game of an undefeated regular season. Without him, the Eagles saw a 21-game winning streak end in a first-round playoff loss.

Snodgrass already had identified him from his 2017 championship-game win as a potential pick.

“I kind of knew I was coaching in this game all the way back then and I thought to myself that’s definitely a kid we’re going to take,’’ he said.

Christensen said his recovery has gone well — he made it back for track and field and was second in the shot and eighth in the discus in Class D at state — but it was nothing like those faced by the Shriners’ Hospitals for Children patients the players hung out with at Tuesday’s “Beyond the Field Experience” day at Nebraska Wesleyan.

“It’s amazing what they go through compared to what we’ve gone through,’’ he said. “Mine was just a matter of seven months. Theirs is a matter of their whole life.”

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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