Life is good for former Missouri running back Henry Josey.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Josey, who led the Tigers with 1,166 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns last season as a junior before declaring for the NFL Draft, soaked up the sun in South Beach the last few weeks.
Of course, he wasn’t exactly lounging around Miami’s beaches.
Instead, Josey was prepping for the NFL Combine, which officially begins Saturday in Indianapolis.
“I’m enjoying it,” Josey said. “I have the passion to play the game, but it’s different now that I just have to focus on playing the game and not waking up going to class. It’s great to focus only on football, and I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing every day.”
Josey is one of more than 300 prospects who were invited to workout at Lucas Oil Stadium in front of NFL executives, scouts and reporters.
In other words, it’s a dream come true for Josey, who missed the 2012 season after a career-threatening knee injury before becoming an inspiration and driving force during Missouri’s 12-2 season.
“It’s a lot different than training in college, because this is your life,” Josey said. “This is your job, and it’s an opportunity everybody doesn’t get. Your preparation for it every day is so much more mentally focused on what you want to get done and how you want to portray yourself to these scouts.”
Josey was one of seven Tigers selected to participate in the NFL Combine, along with defensive ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, cornerback E.J. Gaines, offensive tackle Justin Britt and wide receivers L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas.
Josey projects as an undrafted free agent by most observers.
Of course, Missouri could send several players to the NFL, including fellow junior Kony Ealy.
Ealy, a defensive end from New Madrid, Mo., is in the mid- to late first-round mix after leaving the Tigers with one year of eligibility remaining.
“I was really close to making (Ealy) a possibility to the Saints (at No. 27),” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said. “They could really use a player like that who can play on his feet or down, and he gives you that versatility. Ealy is a guy, had he gone back, would have been a much higher pick, but I think he’s still going to be in the late first-round discussion.”
He certainly won’t slide beyond the second round.
“He’s the kind of player you look at and say, ‘Boy, the upside with him is outstanding,’” Kiper said. “That’s what teams are certainly looking for when you get into the second-round area if he’s there, and I’m not saying he’s definitely going to be there. I think there’s a possibility he could be gone.”
Kiper thought defensive end Michael Sam was a third- to fifth-round talent as a pass rusher, which is in line with Sam’s draft projection at CBS Sports.
That’s about where cornerback E.J. Gaines, a Fort Osage graduate, also falls in line.
“I like E.J. Gaines throughout his career,” Kiper said. “I thought he was a very underrated corner in that conference. E.J. Gaines in the middle rounds makes sense.”
Britt and Missouri’s two senior wide receivers, Washington and Lucas, should be in the mix in the later rounds.
“James Franklin is probably a priority free agent at quarterback,” Kiper said. “I think Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington, big receivers, workouts will tell you where they go — probably day three after it’s all said and done.”
Kiper also mentioned senior linebacker Andrew Wilson, who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, but could get drafted in the later rounds.
“Andrew Wilson, a tackling machine there (at Missouri is) probably more of a day-three pick, but (he) certainly will play in the NFL,” Kiper said.