Missouri RB Josey returns to field after injury

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Henry Josey is known to be quick on the football field. His ability to flash a smile is even quicker.

But for more than 16 months, the Missouri tailback's world became a little darker as he watched his teammates from the sidelines, recovering from a torn left ACL, MCL and patellar tendon sustained on Nov. 12, 2011.

"They were telling me I was going to play again, but that was the last thing on my mind," Josey said. "I just felt like I was in a dream. I was always finding myself asking, 'Why?' That was a big thing with me."

Josey worked with surgeon Dr. Pat Smith and trainer Rex Sharp in hopes of once again becoming the all-Big 12 rusher who led the Tigers with 1,168 yards.

But the 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior says the biggest help he received from Smith was improving his state of mind by not prodding about his injury.

"I know we work on that, a lot of mental stuff," Josey said. "And him preaching it in my head and not for once asking, how am I doing, 'How's your knee?' Just telling me to keep positive with everything and I just got through it."

Of course, it's one thing to sound confident on the sidelines and another to look confident on the field. But so far this spring, Josey has, rushing 12 times for 55 yards in two scrimmages. He says he's 100 percent healthy — coach Gary Pinkel prefers "very close" — and doesn't think about his knee on the field.

Many football players sustain season-ending injuries, but teammates and coaches note that Josey is an exceptional case and practically beam whenever someone asks about him.

"It's awesome," coach Andy Hill said. "Seeing it in practice, the Henry Josey moves that nobody else has, and his style of running. When he takes it and goes, he's special. He's a special person. And he's worked especially hard to get to where he is today. I think it's pretty neat indeed that he can be out there and do what he's doing."

Quarterback James Franklin says Josey's comeback has been "inspiring" for players as the team looks to rebound from its own struggles last year in a disappointing 5-7 inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference.

Franklin sustained injuries of his own to his shoulder and knee in 2012, admitting the pain infected his conscience and hurt his confidence on the field. Asked about having Josey line up alongside him again, Franklin cited his friend's "light sense of humor," perhaps making him feel more at ease. Josey's ability to make a big play at any time doesn't hurt, either.

A consequence of his teammates' praise, however, is higher expectations. Josey started the spring third on the Tigers' depth chart, but despite his rehabilitation, any success he has this season won't be as surprising as two years ago when injuries sidelined the team's top two starters and opened the door for his career season.

Missouri will be counting on him, along with returning backup tailbacks Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough, to improve upon its 138.5 rushing average last season, which ranked tied for 12th in the SEC. The Tigers ran for 244 yards per game in 2011 to lead the Big 12.

So where does Missouri's source of inspiration look himself for inspiration? His 2-year-old son, Henry Jr., who Josey says has made him more determined in everything he does in order to provide an easier future for his family.

"I want to play football throughout my life," he said. "My training staff gave me an opportunity and just worked me so hard to get back to where I was. And then I relied on how blessed I am just to be back here now.

"I'll get back to where I want to be."

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