MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dustin Garrison's recovery from the torn ACL and sprained MCL suffered at West Virginia's first Orange Bowl practice in December continues. The sophomore running back just passed another progress test that evaluates leg strength and the result was favorable, as were all the other reports.
This doesn't really surprise or even please Garrison. Ask him and he has been good to go ever since he got over the initial shock and disappointment from the non-contact injury days before the Mountaineers scored the most points in the history of bowl games.
One of the most vivid images of Garrison after the injury - and, really, one of the few before he met with the media Tuesday for the first time since then - is of him simply walking off the bus as it arrived at a bowl function and then absorbing a lecture from team trainers who wanted him to use crutches.
Turns out that wasn't a freak occurrence. He put himself through his own rudimentary recovery tests.
"They really didn't want me doing it, but I'd walk around the house and make a couple moves here and there," he said. "It seemed stable enough."
With his confidence raised, he'd push a little harder, though only away from the overseers of his recovery, who would surely flip out if they saw what Garrison was doing.
"I'd do a little running up the stairs at my apartment, run down the street, anywhere I could," he said.
There were never any setbacks and Garrison otherwise stayed within the guidelines provided to him after his surgery in January. He began the long road back to where he was last season, when he emerged against LSU, gained 295 yards a week later against Bowling Green and was the unquestioned starter by the time the Mountaineers arrived in Miami for the Orange Bowl.
All along he was told he'd need six months to pull off this comeback. He's right on track and hopes to start doing football stuff next month. He has already been running with his teammates on the side. Now he has to build up strength in his quad muscle and start making cuts and taking hits.
"I feel like I'm going to be a lot better than I was last year," he said.
In truth, that's all Garrison needs to worry about at this stage. The hardest parts are over, and that has nothing to do with the post-surgery pangs, combating impossibly painful stiffness or popping scar tissue.
The moments that stung the most were emotional ones, beginning with the frightening time on the ground after he simply planted wrong and fell to the grass. Right away, he knew his season was over.
"I was asking myself, 'How can this be happening? Why did it happen?'" he said. "I was down there for a while wondering why, but I knew this happened for a reason and I couldn't beat myself up about it."