MORGANTOWN - Dustin Garrison is among those who believe that everything happens for a reason.
The reason for what happened to him in late December? Well, he hasn't quite nailed that down, but it's coming.
"All I know is that I've been working out as hard as I can this spring and summer,'' Garrison said Tuesday. "I've gained weight, I've gotten stronger and I feel like when it's over I'll be a lot better than I was last year.''
If it required the sort of traumatic knee injury that Garrison suffered just prior to West Virginia's Orange Bowl rout of Clemson in order for him to truly focus and commit himself to excellence, well, you wouldn't have known it based on his freshman season for the Mountaineers.
This is a guy who worked his way through a crowded stable of running backs to emerge as a star. He was WVU's leading rusher as a true freshman with 742 yards, including a 291-yard performance against Bowling Green in October that stood as the top performance by a running back in the country.
A need to be more focused and to work harder? Whodathunkit?
Yet here he is, 51/2 months later, not only putting in the effort but making remarkable progress as well. An injury - an ACL tear and an MCL sprain in his knee suffered during practice for the Orange Bowl - that sometimes requires a nine- to 12-month rehabilitation period is well on its way to being overcome in six or seven months. Not that he can afford to rush it or become overconfident, but already Garrison offers that the knee itself is not as concerning to him as regaining the strength lost to forced inactivity.
"My knee is fine,'' Garrison said. "I just need to build up my quad strength. It looks like I'll be back sometime next month.''
With West Virginia's players in full summer workout mode with the start of summer classes, Garrison already looks pretty much like everyone else. He runs and lifts weights right up until it's time to go outside and work in seven-on-seven drills.
That's still several weeks in his future. It's one thing to run straight ahead or lift, quite another to begin attempting the sort of cuts required of a running back.
Not that he hasn't snuck in a few modest attempts, mind you. He'll just be walking around his house or on his way to class and just for kicks he'll make a sharp turn or plant his foot and turn.
"I've done that a couple of times,'' Garrison said. "[Trainer] Dave [Kerns] and those guys probably don't want me to, but I'll walk around the house and take a couple of plants here and there. It seems stable enough.''