He’s not playing Saturday. He won’t be suiting up next week, or the week after that, either.
Henry Josey is out for the season.
Yet every day at practice, he is there, in full-pads, working up a sweat just like his teammates.
“I really needed to get back with my guys,” Josey said. “They helped me out a whole lot, and just being out here and rehabbing out here, watching them, them watching me, it’s a whole lot of help.”
A temporary ending
It was a chilly November afternoon inside Memorial Stadium. Missouri was playing host to the Texas Longhorns on Faurot Field underneath a gray, cloud-covered sky.
Josey went in motion from the right slot and took a handoff from junior quarterback James Franklin. His blockers led him near the sidelines, outside of the numbers.
A Longhorn defender hurled himself at the 5-foot-10-inch, 190-pound back. Josey’s left leg planted awkwardly, and the Angleton, Texas, native was yanked down backward upon contact.
Josey rolled onto his side and clutched his knee, letting out groans of agony. The damage was done. The then-fifth-leading rusher in the nation, averaging over eight yards per carry, had his season ended prematurely.
“It was a freak accident, there was nothing I could have done about it, there was nothing that that cornerback did,” Josey recently recalled. “I don’t know how it happened. It was crazy.”
After being placed on a cart by trainers, an inconsolable Josey was taken to an ambulance, away from a gut-wrenched crowd.
Josey had torn his ACL, MCL and PCL. In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, doctors called it a “one in a million” injury.
“I was mad about it. I wasn’t sad or anything, and it really didn’t hit me until I got to the hospital that I was actually hurt,” Josey said.
As the Tigers were closing the book on their 2011 season with an Independence Bowl victory over North Carolina, Josey was just starting the next chapter of his recovery.
It was there, in the rain, that Josey walked for the first time, six weeks after his devastating injury.
“That was real special,” Josey said. “I took a couple steps on my own there, but pretty much anytime I was out in public I’d walk with the crutches.”
Henry wasn’t the only one just beginning to move from one place to another with his legs. So was his son, Henry Josey Jr.
Henry Josey Jr., now 16 months old, lives in Texas with his mother. Henry Jr. also regularly stays with Henry’s grandparents, who raised him.
Having a son pushed Josey “a whole lot” throughout the rehabilitation process and it was because of him that Josey knew he had no choice but to work his way back.
“My son is the greatest thing that could’ve happened to me,” Josey said. “If I give up on myself, I’m giving up on him.”
Due to rehab, father and son were only able to spend a month together this summer but interact daily. The two often Skype, where Josey counts numbers and recites the ABCs with Henry Jr.
“He feeds off me and I feed off him — he can tell if I’m in a bad mood, he just comes over and messes around,” Josey said. “We’re one.”
A run to daylight
Whistles are blowing. Bodies are colliding.
It’s Sunday practice. The defense practices on one side of Faurot Field with the offense on the other. Coach Gary Pinkel observes from the 50-yard line.
And that’s when something transpiring past the sidelines catches Pinkel’s watchful eye.
“All of a sudden I see this guy in a red jersey with shoulders pads on, and he’s striding, full-length of the field,” Pinkel said. “It was Henry. He was running, he was running good and he was running hard.”
“He’s a remarkable kid and I’m so impressed,” Pinkel added. “I went and gave him a big hug and high five. He will be back one of these days. I admire him so much as he’s battled through all this adversity that he’s had. He’ll be back one of these days.”
His teammates have taken note, too.
“It’s inspiring,” senior linebacker Will Ebner said. “You’ll be out at practice remembering that Henry is in the state he’s in, and you turn around and he’s running sprints across the field, and you have those thoughts in your mind like, ‘maybe he might be ready in time for this season’.”
It came as no surprise when Josey was officially ruled out for the season earlier this week, but that is no deterrent to Josey, who has been making “crazy” progress.
The key now for Josey is to regain the muscle in his left leg, which had shriveled to “almost nothing.”
Josey has been running sprints since the beginning of camp Aug. 2, initially running the width of the field and eventually working his way to running the field's entire length.
Josey wouldn’t put a timetable on the rest of his recovery, but says he is now in control of how fast he can run and can feel the strength returning to his leg.
So, 10 months later, is Josey approaching the light at the end of the tunnel?
“Almost,” Josey said with an ear-to-ear grin on his face. “I can see it, I really can see it.”