Josey has extra motivation to come back from injury for Missouri football team

Monday, August 20, 2012 | 8:53 p.m. CDT; updated 10:33 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Missouri Tigers tailback Henry Josey runs drills at the field behind the Missouri Athletic Training complex Friday morning. Josey is recovering from a knee injury sustained in the 2011 season.

COLUMBIA — His mind was racing. Missouri running back Henry Josey was trying to figure out what the future held for him.

"It was a long night, I'll say. I didn't sleep too well," Josey said.

Josey wasn't talking about the night after he suffered the devastating knee injury that ended his breakout 2011 season and will likely keep him out this season.

Josey was talking about the night he found out he was going to be a father.

It also happened to be the night before he played his first game as a Missouri Tiger in 2010.

"You could tell he wasn't just same old Henry," junior running back Marcus Murphy said.

Murphy and Josey, then both freshmen, were in their room at the hotel the team stayed at that night. Josey had just gotten the phone call from Bianca Pierce, the mother of his child, giving him the news.

Murphy, the only person Josey said he broke the news to that night, was trying to lighten the mood and make the best of the situation.

"He really helped me out a lot during that time," Josey said. "He just kept me laughing most of the time. I really couldn't think about it. If I thought about it too much, I probably would have messed up or something in the game."

Murphy said Josey was excited, but he knew there was a lot for Josey to think about.

"Being down here and having a kid back at home, there could be some problems with that, potentially," Murphy said about Josey, who is from Angleton, Texas. "I just wanted to keep a smile on his face. Help him out in a hard time."

Josey said he reflected that night on how he needed to "step up in two ways." He wanted to prove himself as a football player and embrace his responsibilities as a father.

He had a good first game, ending up with a 10-yard run on his only carry in Missouri's season-opening win over Illinois. Murphy said the strong performance boosted Josey's confidence and made him feel better.

"That was probably one of the best feelings ever. That was my new beginning here," Josey said. "The coaches knew I had potential and everything. So just going out here and doing that. That was a big thing for me."

A lot has happened in Josey's life in the two years since that night. He seized the starting running back job and ran for 1,149 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 8.57 yards per carry in the Tigers' first nine games last season.

Then Josey tore his patellar tendon, ACL and MCL in his left knee in a game against Texas in November.

The recovery process has not been easy for Josey. He said there have been times when he feels like giving up. But Josey says one thing always makes him keep going — his son, Henry Josey Jr.

"You are going to have some hard times. I had a lot of hard times. Just fighting through is a big thing," Josey said. "And knowing what you have looking up to you is just another big thing that keeps you going, too. I can't give up on life 'cause if I give up on my life, then I'm giving up on him."

Now 16 months old, Henry Josey Jr. lives near Houston with his mother. Pierce also works and attends school there. Henry Josey and Pierce are not together but maintain a friendly relationship. The baby also often stays with Thomas and Eula Josey, Henry Josey's grandparents who raised him in Angleton.

Henry Josey says his son is just like him, both in appearance and activity.

"He climbs on everything. I bought him a little car that he can drive," Henry Josey said. "Instead of driving it, he gets inside of it and climbs on top of the window and jumps off the hood and everything."

Henry Josey said he cherishes the time he has together with his son. He says they are always on the move, visiting family, shopping at the mall and fishing.

"Any time I got to go home for a break, when I wasn't rehabbing, I spent every day at home with him. Pretty much 24-seven, the whole time I was with him," Henry Josey said. "That was something I needed, especially going through my injury. He took a lot of stuff off my mind. He helped me out a lot, too."

Still, Henry Josey's time with his son has been limited. Josey has had to stay in Columbia over the summer for rehab and football activities. Still, he said was able to visit his son several times, spending slightly less than a month with him.

He spent so much time with Henry Josey Jr. on his last visit home, his grandfather complained that they didn't even get to fish together. Fishing is a favorite hobby of Thomas and Henry Josey.

"He tries to fish," Thomas Josey joked. "I've been trying to teach him all his life. We fish as much as we can."

Henry Josey says he tries to visit as many people as he can when he goes home, but he spends the most time with his son. At football practice, Henry Josey misses his little boy.

"It's a sacrifice I make coming out here every day being without him. I'm working for him, so I know it will pay off in the end," Henry Josey said.

Josey will likely have to wait for the payoff, but he has made significant progress on his return to the field. His knee has several large scars from surgeries, including one that stretches over the middle of his kneecap. As the team practices, Josey often goes through his own workouts on the sideline.

He stays in good spirits, sometimes joking around with teammates.

"We'll have a good time while I'm supposedly riding the bike," Henry Josey joked.

Henry Josey says his knee feels good, but he needs to improve the strength in his left leg to get back to normal.

"My legs feel probably like E.J.'s legs feel," Henry Josey said with a smirk.

Cornerback E.J. Gaines shook his head and smiled as he walked by, saying, "No they don't."

"I got some fresh legs," Henry Josey said.

At the team's scrimmage Thursday, Henry Josey ran sprints on his own along the sideline at Faurot Field. He called his grandparents and told them to watch the video of him running.

His grandfather said he can tell that Henry Josey is not the same runner he was last fall. Thomas Josey said the whole town of Angleton was "ablaze" last season before his grandson was hurt. Thomas Josey said the stretch of great performances boggled his mind and that he still rewatches some of the games that he recorded.

"To sit in the stands and watch him excel like he did, it was terrific. It was wonderful," Thomas Josey said.

Henry Josey wants to get back to having those types of games. He says he expects to make a full recovery. He also said he would not be disappointed if he had to sit this season out as a redshirt, which would allow him to keep two years of playing eligibility.

"I'm happy just to be back out here. I don't even know if I was supposed to play football again, with how bad my injury was, let alone, be doing what I'm doing now," Henry Josey said. "Me being out here is just a big thing. Me putting my pads on is big thing to me. I wouldn't be disappointed, it's whatever I have to do really."

Thomas Josey said he worries about how the running back might react if he is not able to return to the field this season.

"He's really trying hard. He's trying too hard, as far as I'm concerned. The physical part of it is going to be hard. The mental part, I'm worried more about the mental part of what he's going through," Thomas Josey said. "Because he's really had it rough. He's never had anything like this happen to him before."

Henry Josey says he gets frustrated sometimes during the rehab process. He tries to think about all the help his teammates and friends have given him. He looks back and marvels at his own progress since the injury and considers himself "blessed."

"As soon as you start thinking negative, that's when the workouts that I'm doing goes bad, my head goes the wrong way and I stop caring about stuff," Henry Josey said. "So you have to stay positive through the whole thing."

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder

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