Missouri’s Henry Josey declares for NFL Draft

01/07/2014 1:45 PM

01/07/2014 9:59 PM

The final image of junior running back Henry Josey in a Missouri uniform will forever be the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

That’s because Josey, who was chosen as the game’s MVP after totaling 102 yards and three touchdowns, announced Tuesday that he will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

“I did my pros and cons about everything, but at the end I just prayed about it and followed my heart,” said Josey, who finished the season with 174 carries for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Josey, who said he was given a fourth-round grade on his NFL evaluation, said his son — Henry Jr., 2 — played a significant role in his decision.

“He was definitely a big factor,” Josey said. “He was sleeping when I made my final decision. I went over and got on a knee, I put one hand on his head and one hand on his body and I said a prayer. After that, I feel like the rest is in God’s hands.”

Josey wasn’t ready to make his declaration after the Cotton Bowl. He needed to discuss it with his grandmother, Eula, who was unable to make the trip from Angleton, Texas, to Dallas due to the flu.

Once Josey got home, he got his grandma’s blessing.

“She’s been blessing me my whole life,” Josey said. “She raised me, so that was the main person I needed to get home and talk to before I made any plans.”

Josey still plans to honor the promise he made to Eula and earn a degree. He said he will enroll for an online class during the spring semester.

“I want to make sure I’m still taking classes,” said Josey, who averaged 8.1 yards per carry as a sophomore and had emerged as one of the nation’s best running backs before suffering a devastating knee injury against Texas.

Josey needed three surgeries and nearly 18 months before returning to the field.

Now, Josey leaves as the Tigers’ fifth all-time leading rusher with 2,771 career yards, and his 30 career rushing touchdowns rank fourth in the program’s history. He joined Tony Temple as the second running back in Missouri history with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.

“It’s a blessing for me to be able to do what I did this year and I just thank God every day,” Josey said. “It’s just crazy. Seeing my leg with the ligaments in my knee like spaghetti, it’s crazy for me to come back from that and also help my team the way I have this year.”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who presented Josey with a game ball — a first in Pinkel’s 23-year coaching career — after Josey returned to the field for the 2013 opener against Murray State, offered his full support.

“Henry Josey is a first-class person any way you cut it, and anytime 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.”

Josey is the second Tigers underclassman to declare for the NFL Draft, joining junior defensive end Kony Ealy, who announced his intentions immediately after the Cotton Bowl.

Ealy recorded 43 tackles, including 14 1/2 for a loss, with 9 1/2 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. He sacked Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf twice in Missouri’s 41-31 Cotton Bowl win.

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