Henry Josey declares for the NFL draft

Missouri lost a key component to its explosive offense, as junior running back Henry Josey decided to bypass his senior year and throw his hat into the NFL ring, the school announced Tuesday.

Josey joins junior defensive end Kony Ealy as the second early entry from Missouri's football team.

More than a year removed from a devastating knee injury that left his football career in jeopardy, Josey stormed back to the playing field with 1,166 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. He was a major reason for Missouri's offensive revival in 2013 and will be sorely missed by the Tigers in 2014.

Considered one of the best running backs in the Big 12 before his season-ending injury in 2011, Josey didn't appear to lose a step after losing an entire year of his football life. He was barely walking after his injury, yet sprinted past or cut by most of the defenders who attempted to bear hug him in 2013.

He only broke the century mark in four games this season but averaged 6.7 yards per carry. This was not a player you wanted to sleep on. He could churn out the extra tough yards to extend drives and could end drives in an instant with his home-run speed. Josey finished his Mizzou career with a bang, rushing for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 16-yard run late in the fourth quarter to secure the Tigers' 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Here's what Josey said about his departure in a release from the school:

“This is really a bittersweet decision to make. I’m so grateful to Mizzou and my coaches and teammates and fans for all of their support and everything they’ve meant to me these past four years. It’s difficult to think I won’t be with them next year. But I’m really excited to have a chance to play professionally and work on fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid. I can’t possibly express how much I owe to so many people for helping me get to this position, my doctors, trainers, strength coaches, everyone who pushed me and helped me and believed in me, and of course my coaches for trusting me. To the Mizzou fans, thanks so much for all of your prayers and thoughts the past couple of years, you truly inspired me to get back on the field. I’m going to miss my teammates but I know they’ll do great things and I will always be a Mizzou Tiger.”

It was a special season for a special player who almost had the sport that he loved taken away from him. While the Tigers had plenty of offensive threats to work with this season, Josey was a true X-factor for this team. He made the running game go and could cut the life out of a defense with a simple cut or burst.

The good news for Mizzou is that it has good experience at that running back position. Sophomore Russell Hansbrough ranked second on the team with 685 yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries this season, while junior Marcus Murphy added 601 yards and nine more scores. Oh, and new starting quarterback Maty Mauk isn't afraid to tuck the ball and run either, as he rushed for 229 yards on 41 carries this season.

Mizzou should be fine running the ball, but Josey's intangibles and overall skill will be tough to replace. He was a model player and citizen for the Tigers and the SEC will miss him. Well, maybe not defenders and their coordinators, but you get the point.