Henry Josey’s comeback story is straight out of a Disney movie.
Ever wondered what a Mizzou team that was comprised of only Missouri kids would look like? Or wonder how good an only-Texan Mizzou squad would do? Well, you’re in luck! This offseason, the Rock M Masthead is assembling the best team of Mizzou players by state that they graduated high school from. We compiled a list of the significant starters on every team from the year 2000 on and voted on the best players at their position group in order to create three “All-State” Mizzou squads: Team Missouri, Team Texas, and Team USA. Over the next nine weeks you’ll read about these Mizzou Greats that hailed from the respective regions and, hopefully, come away impressed with just how good these fictional teams could actually be.
This week features a position with several legendary players: the running backs.
When you think about Henry Josey, what comes to mind first?
Is it his breakout sophomore campaign in 2011 when he averaged 8.1 yards per carry? Do you think about the devastating knee injury which many thought would derail – or end – his football career? Or do you immediately go back to his remarkable comeback in 2013 in which he was a driving force behind one of the best Mizzou football teams of this generation?
Henry Josey is one of the best Mizzou football players of the last 20 years. And, yet, the story of Henry Josey somehow outpaces who he was on the field.
Josey wasn’t the best recruit; he was a 3-star athlete out of the Houston area who was nearly as accomplished as a track & field athlete as he was on the football field. Expectations be damned, Josey made an immediate impact at Mizzou.
He finished his true freshman season in 2010 as the team’s second leading rusher. He posted a record-setting day that season against McNeese State when he rushed for three touchdowns on his first four carries of the game. One of his first “signature moments” was serving as the feature back in the Tigers’ upset at home against the top ranked team in the country.
You probably remember a thing or two about that game.
The legend of Henry Josey was only just beginning.
His real breakout came the following season, in 2011. He posted 1,150 rushing yards in the Tigers’ first nine games of the season. He was the leading rusher in the Big 12 and the fifth leading rusher in the country.
He had established himself as a star at Mizzou, in the Big 12, and in college football as a whole.
Then came the injury.
The date was November 12th, 2011. A day Josey – and Mizzou fans – will never forget.
Josey suffered a torn left patellar tendon in the Texas game. That alone can be crushing to a running back’s career. But that wasn’t it. Josey also tore his ACL and his MCL. His meniscus needed to be repaired, too. The timeline for a return was, well, unknown.
Mizzou’s head athletics physician called Josey’s type of injury, “one in a million.” It took three surgeries and hours upon hours of rehab to work his way back.
Josey sat out the entire 2012 season to recover. Many (most?) thought he would never see the field again. How could he? His injury was something you would typically see in a devastating car crash, not one you would expect to see on a football field.
He found a way.
Josey returned to the team in the spring of 2013. He worked his way atop the depth chart. And he didn’t just return to the field. He was back to performing as one of the best running backs in the conference.
Josey finished the season as the fifth leading rusher in the SEC. LSU’s Jeremy Hill was the only player in the conference with a better yards-per-carry average than Josey (min. 100 attempts). His 16 rushing touchdowns were tied with Hill for the third most in the conference, behind only Tre Mason.
By any metric, Josey was back. And so were the Tigers. Josey’s return couldn’t have come at a better time.
Josey’s story, in many ways, mirrored that of the Tigers in the early 2010’s. A breakout season in 2010. A year to recover in 2012. And a resurgence so strong it took everyone by surprise in 2013.
That 2013 season was full of spectacular storylines. It feels like every significant offensive player had at least one “moment.” There are two games that immediately come to mind for me when I think back to Josey’s miraculous comeback season.
The first came against Ole Miss. It was late in the season. The Tigers were squarely on the national stage at this point. They were 9-1 and entered Oxford controlling their own destiny to win the SEC East. It was a cold and windy day in Oxford. The ground game was going to have to take over.
Mizzou rushed the ball 51 times for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Josey led the way with 15 carries for 95 yards and a couple scores. The Tigers held the ball for 12 of the final 15 minutes of the game. It was another signature victory in a season full of them.
Then came Josey’s biggest moment. The most famous run of his career. It was 57 yards of a player looking like he was shot out of a cannon. Josey’s touchdown against Texas A&M sealed the deal to send the Tigers to the SEC Championship for the first time.
Where does Josey rank among the best Mizzou players of this era? That’s up for debate. But you’re going to have a hard time finding a more beloved football player.
His performance was remarkable. His comeback is that of legend.