COLUMBIA, Mo. — On a morning that marked another milestone in his remarkable return, a soft-spoken Missouri running back explained why he had to lose it all in order to gain much more.
“What I went through was a big lesson in me taking a lot of things for granted,” Henry Josey said as he stood in an end zone of a stadium that fell silent when he grabbed his left knee in agony 18 months ago.
Josey will tell you there’s a reason his devastating injury happened. He says the loss of football made him find his faith, and he credits that strengthened relationship with God as the reason he’s been able to complete a comeback so many said could not occur.
“Believing in God like I needed to be, showing how much I’m in love with Him, showing my faith, it brought it all back,” Josey said.
That faith, he says, wasn’t always there. Not as a sophomore, when he was the nation’s fifth-leading rusher. At that time, football was the most-important thing.
“He took it from me that fast,” Josey said. “I almost lost it for the rest of my life. I didn’t know how I was going to live without that.”
The game he had tied himself to showed its fragile existence the moment he crumpled to the turf during game against Texas on Nov. 12, 2011. Doctors would find a torn patellar tendon, torn anterior cruciate and torn meniscus — along with torn medial collateral ligaments.
What followed, Josey says, was a period of time he describes as a dreamlike state — a span of hours then days in which he felt like he was watching himself from outside his own body. He says he tossed and turned, unable to sleep. His mind constantly raced through one soul-searching question after another.
“Why am I in this position now?” Josey recalls wondering. “Why am I watching everything? Why? Why? Why me? At times, I was like, ‘This is not my body. This isn’t me. Who am I right now?'”
He said the questions made him analyze his relationship with God — which had weakened as his football success had grown. He began to rehabilitate his faith, along with his knee.
The former helped the latter. It fueled him through tear-filled physical therapy sessions and bolstered his confidence when it came time to walk, then eventually run.
“No one has any idea what this guy had to do,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after Josey participated fully in Missouri’s first full-contact spring scrimmage Saturday. “He’s had three surgeries, and all the things he’s done to rehab. And look at him. He doesn’t even have a brace on.”
Someone asked Josey about a brace.
Why doesn’t he wear one?
The junior running back laughed.
“Anytime someone asks me that, I just look up,” Josey said. “I tell them, ‘God has me.’ That’s something I rely on so much now.”
It appears to be working.
Josey, knees pumping, carried his first handoff 17 yards.