Teammates, friends and family members filled Enid's Emmanuel Baptist Church Friday morning to celebrate the life and legacy of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box. Pastor Wade Burleson began the service by discussing briefly the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.
"I know that some of you have heard or read about his prescription drug abuse," Burleson said. "The family has requested for me to say something to you. Until you walk a mile in a man's shoes, it's very difficult to judge a man. For those of you who want to define Austin by his death I'm here to tell you he is to be defined by his life."
He would end the service by talking about about Austin's faith. He made the point that no one is perfect and that it wasn't the perfect people Jesus died for. In between Burleson's addresses coaches and friends described Box the player and the person.
Tom Cobble, Box's high school coach, talked about how much Austin enjoyed investing in others. Not necessarily wanting to be the flame but rather the spark that started the flame was Austin's goal. "The greatest impact he had," Cobble said, "was to other people and all that they did, his ability to inspire other people to do or say great things." His only motivation in all he did was to be a good person and an even better friend.
"For all that he did," Cobble concluded, "he wanted nothing in return. He only wanted to be your friend"
After Austin's best friend addressed the people gathered to celebrate the life of Oklahoma's middle linebacker defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables spoke. He knew Box was special early in his high school career and the fact that playing for the Sooners was a lifelong dream for Box made the recruiting process all the more easy. In fact, Box's at ready reply when people would ask how he was doing was to say, "living the dream." He didn't just say it, he meant it.
"Austin loved the game," Venables said. "He had an intensity about him. An intensity to compete. An intensity to prepare. An intensity to win." As Venables continued we would learn that Box was completely selfless in his approach to crushing opposing running backs, quarterbacks, receivers or whoever else came across his path while he was on the field.
"He (Austin) was never concerned with who was getting the credit. Just wanted to win and represent the right way," Venables said. "The Loyalty he had to his teammates. The loyalty he had to his friends...the loyalty to his fellow linebackers. He really embodied loyalty. Venables went on to say that no player will ever sit in Austin Box's chair in the team's film room. From that seat is displayed leadership and helped prepare his teammates to reach the pinnacle of their sport. It has now been dedicated to his honor and memory.
Before Pastor Burleson concluded the service with a message of comfort and hope to family and teammates Bob Stoops read a Biblical passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-4. Stoops spoke briefly of getting to know Box when he was in high school but focused more on the impact he made at Oklahoma and what his legacy will be.
"He brought his teammates a lot of joy," said Stoops. Friends, he brought you fun commitment and a helping hand. Family he brought you great memories, smiles and unconditional love. Austin gave us all, all he had. He was a beautiful young man and we will surely miss him."