PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS)— He doesn’t look down. That’s the first thing you notice about Eagles’ undrafted rookie running back Henry Josey. Never down. Glimpsing at the scars would remind the compact 5-foot-8, 194-pound Josey too much of pulling together the pieces of his dangling left leg. And then having it fall apart again in his hands—with the possibility of playing in the NFL along with it.
So Josey keeps looking ahead. Looking to more games like the one he had against the New England Patriots last Friday, and more opportunities, which he hopes to get against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Eagles’ third preseason game Thursday, at Lincoln Financial Field.
Against the Pats, Josey darted his way to a team-high 56 yards rushing on eight carries and nine touches for 83 total yards. It was reminiscent of how Josey played at Missouri, before he tore up the ACL, MCL, patellar tendon and meniscus in his left knee against Texas on Nov. 12, 2011 his sophomore year.
He took a medical red-shirt his junior year at Missouri. Three major knee surgeries and one arduously long rehab later, Josey thought he convinced NFL scouts he was draft worthy last year at Missouri, when he rushed for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns.
After declaring with a year of eligibility left, Josey experienced another scar—not one NFL team called. Crestfallen, Josey was a name dangling there like his leg, resting on past achievement looking for a buoy.
The Eagles grabbed him as a free agent.
“I do feel very blessed, because I’ve had so much support and that’s the main thing that’s been keeping me going so far,” Josey said. “I don’t even look down at the scar anymore. I don’t ever look down any more. It’s my past. It’s definitely something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but I just keep looking forward in life, and to everyone else who’s supported me and allowed me to get this far.
“I took what happened as a lesson. It’s like I started my life all over again. It’s a like a big wake-up call that football can be taken away from me. I had to fight through and overcome. I had to keep looking forward. I’m here now.”
With LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles already locked in at running back, Josey is battling Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker and David Fluellen for the remaining two spots. With Polk, Tucker and Fluellen banged up, Josey has a chance of making it.
A number of his teammates wouldn’t mind if he did. He seems to have endeared himself to some of the veterans. They know what he’s been through, but Josey himself says he wants no pity. He wants to make the Eagles on merit, and in the cold, hard reality of the NFL, that’s the only way he will.
It does help, however, when your teammates know your character. And Josey oozes it. There is a sense he’s a locker room favorite who many hope does make it.
“I root for the kid [Josey] because he’s all business and he’s quiet, humble, he’s a real student of the game and he picks up the run reads pretty well,” Eagles’ All-Pro guard Evan Mathis said. “His character alone is what makes you root for guys like that.”
Josey has another fan close by, someone who could relate to him on various levels, and that’s the diminutive Sproles, who’s listed at 5-6, but might be closer to 5-4.
“I keep telling Henry to stay focused and keep on working hard,” Sproles said. “He is someone that you want to see make it. I know what happened to him and that’s why I stay on him so much. He can play in this league. Henry is quick. When he sees a hole, boom, he’s gone. That’s special.”
Josey hears this from Sproles and smiles.
“I’ve battled long odds my whole life, especially the height thing,” Josey said. “Darren Sproles is shorter than me, but he plays with a big man’s attitude. Sproles is a good example to follow, because once people see me the first time they judge. They see how tall, or short, I am and make judgments. My height is something I’ve been criticized for every day. I hope they look at what I can do, and judge me by that.”
So do a lot of people, it seems.
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