Cotton Bowl 2014: Henry Josey has a decision to make

Bill Carter

Missouri's beloved running back could be playing his final game in black and gold on Saturday.

The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri Cotton Bowl Notes: The "Josey on the Fence" edition

"Yes, I want to come back and yes, I want to graduate. That’s something I’ve made a promise to my grandma and a couple other people in my life. It’s a big decision. But I’m just staying in the moment right now and focusing on the football game."

Josey said the sheer volume of reaction from Missouri fans didn't surprise him.

These are the same people who fell silent when he wrenched his knee against Florida, the same people who have made Josey, in Gary Pinkel's words, "sacred" after coming back from his knee injury to rush for 1,074 yards this season.

It was just another sign to Josey of how much they care.

"From the fans, I love those guys to death. I love everyone that’s helped me and supported me in everything I’ve done. It’s kind of crazy and like, ‘Wow.’

"No decision."

The Missourian: Henry Josey could be leaving for NFL Draft
KC Star: Cotton Bowl notes: Small stir concerning Josey’s future
Post-Dispatch: Josey still undecided about 2014

"I knew that was going to be the main talk today, the main question everyone wanted to ask me," he said. "As of right now … that’s not anything I have to worry about. My main focus is just the same as I told you guys when we started practicing for the bowl (game), that was to focus on winning this game and make sure I help my seniors go out with a great bang and that we finish the season like we want to."

After missing all of the 2012 season while recovering from a drastic knee injury suffered in 2011, Josey reclaimed the starting job this season and became just the second running back in Mizzou history to post multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, finishing the regular season with 1,074 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Like other draft-eligible underclassmen, Josey will receive a draft projection from the NFL’s draft advisory board in the coming weeks. For now, he’s not making any promises about his status for 2014.

I mentioned this in a recruiting post a couple of weeks ago, but it bears repeating:

There is a possibility that Henry Josey goes pro after the Cotton Bowl. Whereas I'm assuming Kony Ealy is gone in 2014 and DGB is gone in 2015, I'm not going to do that with Josey. But it's certainly a possibility. The good news, however, is that Hansbrough and Murphy are back regardless, and Morgan Steward impressed in limited action. Mizzou's depth chart would look pretty solid with no incoming recruits, but there will be a couple of intriguing freshmen entering the mix as well.

I think the comment got brushed aside at the time, but after some confusion earlier this week -- Josey posted something about his "last time" on Twitter, and the Mizzou universe imploded -- people seem to be finally accepting the fact that Josey is weighing whether to stay or go.

Here's the deal: If he gets any impression that he would be drafted, it would probably be smart of him to go. Josey is a 5'10, 190-pound running back. He's an awesome 5'10, 190-pound running back, but he doesn't have the size NFL scouts drool over, and he's not going to suddenly be 6'1, 220 this time next year, either. The common line of thought is that he won't be drafted very high, if he returned to school for his senior year, he could improve his stock. And if that's the case, then yes, come back. But is that the case? What can he prove next year that he didn't this year, especially as a running back? At this point, running back is about the most fungible position in football. Guys have a short shelf life at all positions, but especially that one. If he doesn't get the impression that he's going to go higher next year, why should he come back, especially since he knows more than anyone else how you're just one awkward hit from disaster?

There's nothing I would enjoy more than to see Henry Josey in a Mizzou uniform for one more year. I hope it happens, and I hope that if he comes back, it pays off with a higher draft slot. My eyes will well up for him on Senior Day against Arkansas, and he'll leave school both a graduate and just about the most beloved Tiger of all-time. (He's going to be the latter regardless.) But we should probably accept that it might not happen. And it will be totally understandable if it doesn't.

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