Missouri's Josey declares for NFL Draft

Missouri running back Henry Josey (20) goes in for a touchdown against Oklahoma State during the second half of the Cotton Bowl on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

Missouri running back Henry Josey (20) goes in for a touchdown against Oklahoma State during the second half of the Cotton Bowl on Friday in Arlington, Texas. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA —Henry Josey is writing a new chapter in his fairy tale story.

The Missouri junior running back declared for the 2014 NFL Draft on Tuesday, giving up his final year of eligibility at Missouri.

“This is really a bittersweet decision to make,” Josey said in a statement. “I’m so grateful to Mizzou and my coaches and teammates and fans for all of their support and everything they’ve meant to me these past four years. It’s difficult to think I won’t be with them next year. But I’m really excited to have a chance to play professionally and work on fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid.

“I can’t possibly express how much I owe to so many people for helping me get to this position, my doctors, trainers, strength coaches, everyone who pushed me and helped me and believed in me, and of course my coaches for trusting me.

“To the Mizzou fans, thanks so much for all of your prayers and thoughts the past couple of years, you truly inspired me to get back on the field. I’m going to miss my teammates but I know they’ll do great things and I will always be a Mizzou Tiger.”

Josey ran for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury against Texas. That devastating injury kept him out all of the 2012 season. Josey ended the 2013-14 season with 1,166 yards rushing and ranked second in the Southeastern Conference with 16 touchdowns.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement that while his program would miss Josey, he supports his decision.

“Henry Josey is a first-class person any way you cut it, and any time you take that out of your program, it leaves a void,” Pinkel said. “He is such an amazing competitor, and I’ve said time and again just how inspiring he has been for our team the last two years. We were so proud of him for overcoming everything he had to deal with, and to be such a positive influence on and off the field.

“We’re going to miss him, no question, but Henry wants to pursue his dream of playing professionally and we wish him nothing but the best and we’ll do everything we can to help him reach that goal.

“The Mizzou Football program is in better shape because of his efforts, so we’re grateful for the time he spent with us, and we know he’ll represent Mizzou well going forward.”

Josey, fresh off being named the offensive player of the game in Missouri’s 41-31 win against Oklahoma State in Friday’s Cotton Bowl, joins teammate Kony Ealy, a defensive end who announced after the game he would declare for the draft.

Josey starred for the Tigers in that dramatic Cotton Bowl win, as he ran for three touchdowns, including the game-winning score from 16 yards out with 3:08 left in the contest. He had a 25-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter to break a 17-all tie, after he opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 3-yard run that staked Missouri to a 7-0 lead. Josey finished the game with 92 yards rushing.

III

Missouri finished the season ranked fifth in both the Associated Press rankings and the USA Today coaches poll.

It’s the best finish for the Tigers since finishing the 2007-08 season ranked fourth in the AP poll following a 12-2 season that saw Missouri defeat Arkansas 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl.

It’s a similar scenario for Missouri this time around, as the Tigers finished the 2013-14 season at 12-2, capping the year with a victory in the Cotton Bowl.

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