Mizzou’s Henry Josey is game-breaker again

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A little more than two years ago,

Henry Josey ripped his left knee to shreds making a cut. He tore the

ACL, MCL and patellar tendon on a 2-yard gain against Texas at home, an

injury so extensive Missouri coach Gary Pinkel thought it looked like

his star tailback had been in an automobile

accident.

It was serious enough that Texas coach Mack

Brown crossed the field at a hushed Faurot Field to have a

look.

In the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, No. 3

Auburn will see a player who’s made it all the way

back.

Coaches and teammates couldn’t have been more

pleased that the 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior got a chance to really

stretch his legs on the go-ahead touchdown late in the victory over

Texas A&M that wrapped up the SEC East.

“You

saw Henry, when he got that one hole how fast he took off,” center Evan

Boehm said. “And that’s something special to see. What better person to

get that than Henry?”

Josey is a cinch for a second

1,000-yard season in two years starting for the fifth-ranked Tigers

(11-1, 7-1), needing just 50 yards with two games remaining. He’s busted

four 50-yard-plus gains this season, serving notice with a 68-yard TD

in the opener and scoring on an 86-yard run at

Kentucky.

He has eight runs of 20 yards or longer and

is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Though it’s down from a scintillating

8.1-yard average in 2011, Josey believes he’s a better back

now.

“I hope I’m better than I used to be,” Josey

said.

Faster, too?

“I think so,”

he said.

There’s no doubt he’s an inspirational

presence, what Pinkel refers to as

“untouchable.”

“You don’t say a bad word about Henry

Josey,” Pinkel adds, “no matter what.”

Josey was

all-Big 12 as a sophomore with 1,168 yards despite missing the last

three games with an injury that required multiple operations. He spent

all of 2012 rehabbing.

“We saw it every day, just

tirelessly working, and coming back mentally, too,” guard Max Copeland

said. “You’ve got to be a special dude to come back from something like

that mentally.”

Missouri has been careful not to

overload Josey his first season back, plus there’s plenty of depth.

Sophomore Russell Hansbrough (624 yards, 6.3-yard average, four TDs) and

junior Marcus Murphy (561, 6.9, nine TDs) are speedsters, and

quarterback James Franklin (412, 4.5, three TDs) is a shifty

threat.

“Sometimes we don’t even block the right guys

and he still scores,” right guard Conner McGovern said of Murphy.

“That’s why we call him `Magic Murph.’ But we definitely take a little

extra pride with Henry, with what he’s been through and how he’s

sacrificed.”

That balance definitely has Auburn’s

attention.

“You can pull out the sheets and look,”

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. “They’re right up at

the top in total offense, rushing and

passing.”

Running backs coach Brian Jones said he’s

made it a point to keep Josey fresh for “crunch time” like the

third-and-1 play that produced the winning score against Texas

A&M.

“He’s sitting on the bench; at times

he’s all by himself,” Jones said. “He’s very aware of what’s going on,

very aware of the situation.”

On the deciding play,

McGovern and center Mitch Morse opened big holes. Wide receiver Jimmie

Hunt contributed, too.

“All three of those guys had

great blocks on that play, and Henry finished it off,” offensive

coordinator Josh Henson said. “It’s always great when you see a guy

return from an injury like he had and have the success he’s had. It just

makes you feel good.”