Josey's comeback epitomizes the spirit of Mizzou's football revival
OCT 24, 2013 5:57p ET
@&*#! @&*#! @&*#!
$*%^! $*%^! $*%^!
It was that knee, again, and there was Henry Josey, on the turf at Memorial Stadium, firing off a stream of expletives with the kind of speed that would make Bobby Knight blush.
"A lot of cuss words," Missouri's junior tailback recalled with a chuckle. "My teammates staring over at me. I'm like, 'Y'all just get back, I'm all right, I'm all right, I'm not going to cuss any more.'"
When Josey went down last Saturday against Florida that way again and felt that pain again and heard that sound again, he knew it was bad.
"I was scared," said Josey, who'd re-injured his surgically reconstructed left knee, forcing him to sit out for a spell during a 36-17 thumping of the Gators. "I got pretty much tackled how I did before I got hurt. So that old feeling just kind of rushed inside me."
An awful feeling. That feeling of being totally, well, @&*#-d.
But here's the thing: It wasn't the same sound. It wasn't the same pain.
"Well, I wasn't worried about it," recalled the Texas native, who would eventually leave the field under his own power. "I've done it before, so I know the feeling. And it didn't feel like that.
"So I just knew. I was a little scared and I just wanted to calm back down. And that's the biggest thing, just calm back down and then getting right back (in) there."
For a minute or two, Columbia was silent. It was freaky. On a sunny afternoon that was otherwise a Black-and-Gold Mardi Gras, start to finish, a total Gator roast, the air completely left the building.
Not Henry, they said. Not the kid who was leading the Big 12 in rushing back in 2011 before his knee exploded. Not the kid who'd suffered what doctors called a "one-in-a-million" setback, endured three different surgeries, and soldiered through more false starts and rehab sessions than any God-fearing soul deserves.
"I was thinking we needed to suit myself up to play tailback," quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said.
"Watching him progress, day-in and day-out, Saturday almost broke my heart," left tackle Justin Britt said. "My heart dropped, you know? Especially because I was on the field when it happened, and it just dropped.
"And anybody who was there would know how silent that crowd got. It was dead quiet. And you know, that's kind of like an 'AAHHH,' once he got up and starting jogging off."
Last fall, all the Tigers did was take bullet after bullet, square in their collective gut. This year, they're dodging them. A series after Josey got hurt, he was back on the field, breaking loose for a 50-yard run -- only the second run of at least 50 yards allowed by the Gators over the past three years.
"To see him go down was scary," center Evan Boehm said. "But you know, just seeing that comeback was awesome."
Boehm calls him Hank Dog. Hank Dog calls him Little Beezy. It's a funky bunch, this.
"You have to get up," said Hank Dog, who rambled for 136 yards on 18 carries against one of the saltiest defenses in the country. "If you don't get up, it just shows how weak you've become from everything. And you've got to be strong with the situation. You can't be doubtful with something just because something went wrong."
Josey is one of the perspective guys on this roster, a perspective that cuts deeper than most. There was a chance he might not play football again, a chance that suiting up for a 7-0 Mizzou team might never happen, a chance that the only way he'd be lining up across from South Carolina star Jadaveon Clowney was on his Xbox.
"I learned a whole lot from my injury," said Josey, who has run for 494 yards and eight scores this season. "And just the way I was going about things and how I was living life. And it showed me what was important to me, took it away from me. And now I have it back. Now I just don't take anything for granted anymore."
Not anything? Health? Fitness?
"Fitness, being in this world ... just going outside and knowing that nobody's going to kill me today," Josey replied. "Just a whole lot of things, everything in life."
After running for 113 yards in Mizzou's season-opening rout of Murray State on August 31, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel felt compelled to break with program tradition and gave Hank Dog an individual game ball. When a writer asked Josey who, specifically, had helped to give him strength during his time on the comeback trail, comfort during his time away from the game, he just smiled.
"You've seen all those fans quiet?" the tailback replied. "I had anyone behind me ... anybody possible was behind me. So you could look at the world and say they're behind me."
See those stands? That's 71,004 of his closest friends, the wind at Hank Dog's back.
"It's crazy," Josey said. "They're all my friends. You can't explain that feeling. And then after you get up, you hear everybody yelling. I love everybody that supports me. And I'm going to continue just making this story great for them and show them that anything's possible."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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