Hello once again, Sooner Nation! There are only a dozen days left in our countdown to kickoff, and we wanted to use this opportunity to remember beloved Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Austin Box.
About 90 minutes northwest of Oklahoma City, Austin Box did it all for Enid High School. He led his team to the Class 6A Title game in 2006, playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and free safety. By the end of the year, Austin was regarded as the top football prospect in the state of Oklahoma. Box played with a team-first mentality, and his approach to the game is what brought him so success on the field.
Box earned a scholarship to play football for the University of Oklahoma and began his Sooner journey in 2007. After redshirting his first year, Box saw the field in 10 games during the 2008 season, and started 4 of those contests. After suffering a knee injury late in the season, Box was sidelined for the conclusion of OU’s national title run.
In 2009, Box returned from his injury and earned more playing time. Although the 8-5 year was a letdown by Oklahoma’s standards, Box proved he could contribute in a significant way. The next season, Box played a pivotal role, especially in the Big XII Championship Game against Nebraska and the Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut.
According to his parents, Craig and Gail Box, Austin had a history of sports-related injuries, and was routinely prescribed with pain medication. One of his latest injuries was a back injury he endured just before the 2010 season, causing him to miss the first 5 games.
On May 19th, 2011, Austin Box was found unresponsive in his home in El Reno, Oklahoma. Tragically, he did not survive. Medical reports later determined that a mixture of several different types of prescription medication was the cause of death.
Naturally, Austin’s family and friends were devastated, and his Oklahoma teammates were no exception. The leaders of the team wanted to pay tribute to their fallen brother, so for the entire 2011 season, a different member of the team would wear a nameless No. 12 jersey each week in honor of the late linebacker. Additionally, Kenny Stills paid tribute in his own way following a late touchdown in Tallahassee that September.
Even though it has been just over 6 years since his passing, Austin’s memory lives on. His name carries a tremendous amount of weight across the community, and his story has resonated around the country. There is even a foundation in his name, the Austin Box #12 Foundation, that awards a scholarship for high school student athletes entering college.
We will all forever miss Austin Box, and it’s difficult not to wonder about what could have been. One thing is certain, however, and that is the impact of Box’s legacy. His story will live on in the lore of Oklahoma football, both as a team player and as a young man.
Follow Crimson & Cream Machine on Twitter!