Josey’s comeback epitomizes the spirit of Mizzou’s football revival

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Oh,
@&*#!

@&*#!
@&*#!
@&*#!

Also:

$*%^!

$*%^!
$*%^!
$*%^!

$*%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%^!

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.”

#$%&
straight.

You can follow Sean
Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.