COLUMBIA, MO. • Henry Josey was 14 the one and only time he was brave enough to race his father, the result being predictable.
In a sprint pitting the national high school record holder at 100 meters against the still maturing, future Missouri running back, dad put his son away quickly. All the younger Josey could do was watch helplessly.
"We raced 50 meters and he kind of just took off on me. I just stopped," Henry Josey said. "He's very impressive. You can't even explain how he explodes out of the blocks. As of right now I still don't think I could beat him."
For now, Josey is content trying to outrun Division I defenders, who have had difficulty catching the Mizzou sophomore this season.
He undoubtedly has his dad, Henry Neal, to thank for the burst that has helped turn him into the country's sixth leading rusher through three games with 400 yards and a 13.8 yards per carry average.
Neal set the 100-meter record at 10.15 seconds in 1990 and no one has been fast enough to erase him from the record book, where he remains pictured. He also had the country's fastest time in the 200 that season at 20.20.
Western Illinois got a look at the family speed last week when Josey ran for 263 yards with three touchdowns. The previous week, in his first start, he had 94 yards at Arizona State.
Ask running backs coach Brian Jones which performance stands out more and he doesn't hesitate.
"How he performed at Arizona State was really impressive," he said. "It was his first time starting. It's just a sign of his maturity, getting better and feeling more comfortable. He wants to get on the field more and he's doing that."
With the rash of injuries at running back, Josey moved up the depth chart quickly. The loss of Kendial Lawrence with a broken leg and De'Vion Moore with a high ankle sprain provided an opportunity.
The depth has held up well thus far. But facing a physical Oklahoma defense Saturday night and considering Josey's lack of heft (5-foot-10, 190), coach Gary Pinkel said the coaches have to keep an eye on him.
"He's not 250 like Jared (Culver). You have to watch what you do a little bit," Pinkel said. "But he's a strong guy. A lot of times good running backs don't take a lot of hits. But we have to watch that, though, no question."
Josey certainly didn't take many tough hits against Western Illinois as he racked up his yardage in just one half. He isn't the type to take on a defender one on one, relying more on his shifty ways.
"My running style helps a lot," he said. "That comes down to your vision, seeing what's coming and knowing when to go down and be smart. You take that big blow, you could be done for a while."
Josey was raised by his grandparents but occasionally saw his father run at track meets. Although Neal didn't play college football, his speed was impressive enough that he got looks from the NFL, signing with Miami in 1996.
Josey was done in a hurry against Western Illinois, but only because of the score. He doesn't recall ever rushing for so many yards in a game at any level of play. Certainly not at Angleton (Texas) High, where he became accustomed to sharing the load with a stable of ball carriers.
It didn't take Josey long to make an impression at Mizzou. In his second game as a freshman, he topped 100 yards against McNeese State. He finished 2010 with 437 yards and five touchdowns.
After Josey's most recent effort, Jones said he sees the same smiling, giggly kid enter the meeting room. But he's seen his confidence soar. How large a load he can handle remains to be seen.
"We'll do what we need to win the game," Jones said. "How many times we'll run him, we don't know." Said Josey, "I'm more than ready for a load."