COLUMBIA — Reporters have been asking Henry Josey the same questions all season.
They want to know about the knee. The recovery. The redemption. How does it feel?
“You get tired of it eventually,” Josey said on Monday. “But you’ve just got to live with it, know what you’ve done and know how much you’ve inspired somebody else. It’s not just about you. It’s about being able to talk about it. It’s giving back to everybody who’s seen me do what I’ve done.”
Josey hasn’t just given back with his inspiring recovery from a horrible knee injury that tore multiple ligaments and put his career on hold in November 2011.
He’s also been outstanding on the field this year, perhaps even better than when he won All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. His 14 total touchdowns have paced the Tigers offense in 2013, but none was bigger than his final run against Texas A&M on Saturday.
With the score tied at 21 late in the fourth quarter, Josey took a hand off to his left, and then cut back.
“That hole…” he said, still in disbelief. “Nobody could touch me. That’s how big it was.”
Once Josey was out in open space, the crowd roared as the black-and-gold embodiment of poetic justice streaked toward the winning touchdown.
“Keep running and don’t get caught,” he told himself. “If you get caught, you have that chance that you might lose, and then you have it in the back of your head that this is my fault.
“I ran to the back of the end zone.”
There wasn’t a more fitting player to cap off the final home game of a dream season with an electrifying touchdown than Josey.
“It’s just my story,” he said. “Everybody’s seen the situation. Everybody knows everything I’ve had to do to get where I am now. And everybody’s supported me.”
One month earlier, the crowd was utterly silent as Josey writhed on the turf in pain. His knee had twisted oddly when a Florida player tackled him, and onlookers expected the worst.
Josey saw his recovery flash before his eyes.
“I know I’ve inspired a lot of people, and that’s something I really take control of,” he said. “That’s something that I love to do: inspire people. Just let them hear my story and then helping people get through life sometimes. For them to see me go down, that’s something you don’t want to see.”
The pain died down, and Josey realized he wasn’t seriously injured. After what seemed like an eternity, he arose and jogged off the field. Still, this was one game after starting quarterback James Franklin hurt his right shoulder against Georgia, and no one was sure of Josey’s return.
“When me and James went down this season, everybody said our season was over,” Josey said. “Nobody here thought our season was over. Nobody thought that just because Maty (Mauk) was in, that we couldn’t win a game. There’s no doubt in our offense or in our whole team this year.”
The trust shows. Missouri won the SEC East in its second season in the conference. Josey, Franklin and the rest of the Tigers’ rushing attack has punched opponents in the mouth to the tune of 2,843 yards this season. The redshirt junior is just 49 yards from hitting the the 1,000 mark.
“It’s something I really take personally, being the best running back corps on the field,” Josey said. “That’s something my guys will appreciate the whole week, and we’ll get our jobs done.”
Opponents have certainly felt the pain against what Josey calls a “more physical team.”
“I don’t think they like us too much after we get done with them,” he said.
Josey is well aware that a national championship is still in reach. It’s something he talked about with teammates in the preseason. There were doubters then, and they still exist.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” Josey said. “If we’re 11-1, we’re 12-1, we’re 13-1 — nobody’s gonna respect us until we get it done.
“We want to be that team that somebody talks about forever. That’s what we’re doing.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.