MORGANTOWN - Dustin Garrison couldn't even answer his own question.
''I talked to a lot of guys and I remember asking (roommates) Dante (Campbell) and KJ (Myers), 'what if you couldn't play the game of football? How would you feel?'
''I never really thought about that until I got hurt,'' he said. ''It's a fun game and I enjoy doing it.''
Garrison, West Virginia's leading rusher as a true freshman, tore his ACL and sprained his MCL in the days leading up to the Orange Bowl, and suddenly he found himself asking those questions.
Having played the game since the age of 6 (he'll be 20 on Sept. 15), he had no answer.
''I don't know what I would do,'' he said. ''I would watch the game and just think that could be me. Or I should be out there doing everything they're doing.''
Garrison called the injury, which typically requires six months worth of rehab, a freak accident.
''I took one step, then I took another and it was all gone,'' he said. ''You make that same move every time, but it just takes that one time.''
He heard the snap. Lying on the ground, it took him just seconds to replay what had happened. He knew his knee was mashed potatoes.
Immediately, Garrison began to feel sorry for himself.
One minute, he was preparing to play in the biggest game of his life. The next, he was being prepped for surgery (which successfully took place Jan. 13).
Throughout his football career, Garrison had broken a collarbone and an elbow and suffered through Turf Toe, but he hadn't gone under a surgeon's knife.
''It was tough,'' he said. ''I would sit there in my hotel room and just think about how it all happened. Just watching the (Orange Bowl), I was just there to support my team. It was a bad deal, but all that matters is that we won.''
Somewhere through it all - the why me questions and the hows? - he learned a valuable life lesson.
''I've had teammates in high school who had the same injury, and they said you never know what you have until it's gone,'' Garrison said. ''Now that it happened to me, I understand it's really serious and you should always take advantage of what you have.''
To that end, he has busted it in rehab, where he's on schedule to make a full recovery in time for fall practices. As it is, he says his knee is 100 percent and he's running with his teammates, but it will be three more weeks before he takes a quad strength test and is cleared to make cuts.
Though Garrison admitted he'd rather start from the bottom of the depth chart and work his way back up, he vows to be ''a lot better'' this season than he was last, when he gained a team-best 742 yards on 136 carries an average of 5.5 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns as a rookie. Included in that was a 291-yard effort against Bowling Green that stood among the top three individual performances in the FBS. He also caught 24 passes for 201 yards.
Garrison said he has watched film of himself and looked at where he needs to improve. First on that list is avoiding 1-on-1 tackles. In his mind, he didn't shake that guy nearly enough in 2011.
''Just trying to get to where I need to be,'' he said.
All that remains of that fateful step is a 3-inch scar on his left knee, a lifelong reminder of one misstep he'll need to work hard to forget if he, indeed, is going to be better than he was.