ST. LOUIS — Missouri running back Henry Josey’s remarkable comeback story will continue in the NFL next season.
The university announced Tuesday that Josey, who enjoyed a remarkable redshirt junior season in 2013 following a devastating knee injury in 2011 that cost him the entire 2012 season, is leaving school early and declaring himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Itâs a sensible move. Josey’s stock as a prospect will likely never be higher than it is now, and returning to Columbia for his senior season would mean risking another injury.
"This is really a bittersweet decision to make," Josey said in a press release. "I’m so grateful to Mizzou and my coaches and teammates and fans for all of their support and everything they’ve meant to me these past four years. It’s difficult to think I won’t be with them next year. But I’m really excited to have a chance to play professionally and work on fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid."
Josey follows teammate Kony Ealy, a defensive end some project as a first-round pick who declared his early draft eligibility immediately after the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.
After his three-touchdown performance in the Cotton Bowl — which earned him the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player award — Josey said he had not made his decision and needed to talk things over with his family and Tigers coach Gary Pinkel before making a decision.
Fast forward to Tuesday and the Angleton, Texas, native is ready to take that step to the next level.
Josey will leave Missouri as just the second running back to record two 1,000-yard seasons, following Tony Temple, after running for 1,168 yards as a sophomore and 1,166 yards this season. He scored a team-high 16 rushing touchdowns this year, which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference.
"I can’t possibly express how much I owe to so many people for helping me get to this position, my doctors, trainers, strength coaches, everyone who pushed me and helped me and believed in me, and of course my coaches for trusting me," Josey said. "To the Mizzou fans, thanks so much for all of your prayers and thoughts the past couple of years; you truly inspired me to get back on the field. I’m going to miss my teammates, but I know they’ll do great things and I will always be a Mizzou Tiger."
Pinkel said in the press release that while the Tigers will miss Josey, he supports the running back’s decision.
"Henry Josey is a first-class person any way you cut it, and any time you take that out of your program, it leaves a void," Pinkel said. "He is such an amazing competitor, and I’ve said time and again just how inspiring he has been for our team the last two years. We were so proud of him for overcoming everything he had to deal with and to be such a positive influence on and off the field. We’re going to miss him, no question, but Henry wants to pursue his dream of playing professionally and we wish him nothing but the best and we’ll do everything we can to help him reach that goal. The Mizzou football program is in better shape because of his efforts, so we’re grateful for the time he spent with us, and we know he’ll represent Mizzou well going forward."
Josey, listed at 5 feet 10 and 190 pounds this season, will be an interesting prospect to watch. He has the speed and production NFL teams seek, but his healed left knee will be a source of scrutiny. Josey’s situation could be similar to the concerns NFL teams had with wide receiver Danario Alexander coming out of Mizzou following his multiple knee surgeries. Alexander went undrafted before signing with the St. Louis Rams as a free agent.
Matt Miller, a draft analyst at BleacherReport.com, tweeted shortly after Tuesday’s announcement that Josey’s draft stock will depend on his medical reports but that he viewed Josey’s ceiling as a third- or fourth-round selection.
As for replacing Josey in the backfield, the Tigers will return Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, two tailbacks with similar size and skills as Josey’s.
Hansbrough rushed 114 times for 685 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and four touchdowns this season as a sophomore. Murphy, a redshirt junior, ran 92 times for 601 yards, an average of 6.5 per carry, and nine touchdowns.
Normally when you got somebody ahead of you on the depth chart you can't wait for them to leave. Naw not me. I wish my brother the best tho.