For Lone Star State Tigers, Cotton Bowl a homecoming of sorts

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | 9:08 p.m. CST; updated 9:29 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Missouri running back Henry Josey looks for a hole while receiver Marcus Lucas blocks Texas A&M defensive back Clay Honeycutt in the first quarter Nov. 30 at Memorial Stadium.

 COLUMBIA — After he finished his finals this past week, Henry Josey did what many MU students did. He went home.

For Josey, the Missouri football team's top running back, home is the city of Angleton, Texas, near Houston. Josey's winter break ended over the weekend, though, as the Tigers came back to prepare for the AT&T Cotton Bowl scheduled for Jan. 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. While his time at home was short-lived, one moment with his son Henry Jr. made it all worth it.

"When I first got home I went to go pick him up from day care," Josey said of his two-year-old son. "Just seeing him there was crazy. He runs up to me and gives me a hug and tells me he misses me. It’s a great thing to hear and it’s a great feeling for me."

Although he is back in Columbia, Josey will be able to see Henry Jr. and the rest of his family very soon. That's because the Tigers are traveling to Arlington for the Cotton Bowl.

Arlington is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has been home to the Cotton Bowl since 2010. It is Missouri's first bowl game in the Lone Star State since the 2009 Texas Bowl. You can bet Henry Jr. will be there.

"He knows I'm coming home to play so he's excited," Josey said.

Josey isn't the only Tiger going home for the Cotton Bowl. There are 36 players on the team from Texas, more than any other state except Missouri.

Many of these players are the result of Missouri's time in the Big 12 Conference. The team recruited heavily in the talent-rich state, taking natives — such as Michael Sam — who were passed over by the major Texas universities and developing them into respectable players.

Sometimes these players made the Texas schools look silly. Take Sam for instance, who was named an unanimous All-American this week. While Missouri isn't Texas, getting to frequently play back home in the Big 12 was a selling point for Sam.

"I think that's the reason I came to Missouri," Sam said. "You get to play Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech."

While there is only one Texas school (Texas A&M) in Missouri's current conference — the Southeastern Conference — the Tigers are still prioritizing recruiting in the state.

"We’ve done really well there," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We've got a reputation down there and would like to keep getting more (players)."

Pinkel said the location of Missouri's bowl game could be used as a recruiting advantage. The Tigers play at AT&T Stadium which is home to the Dallas Cowboys. While coaches are not allowed to recruit at bowl games, high school prospects are allowed to watch the team's practices. Pinkel said he hopes "just being there" in the Dallas area will further push the Missouri name.

For receiver Darius White, a transfer from the University of Texas, the Cotton Bowl will literally be a homecoming. White, who is from Fort Worth, went to high school two exits away from AT&T Stadium. He said he has been to the stadium many times and is looking forward to getting back to Texas.

"It's going to be a good time," White said.

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