Originally Published: May 20, 2011 11:21 AM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY— Just one day after the heartbreaking news of the death of Oklahoma native and OU football player Austin Box, many questions still remain unanswered, but one thing is certain, his life and legacy will never perish.
He was a son, brother, team mate and most of all a friend.
“We’ve lost a great teammate and a great friend in Austin Box,” said Oklahoma coach Brent Venables who recruited Box and coached him while at OU.
"He was the best athlete I ever coached," said Enid High School head coachTommy Parker, who was Box's defensive coordinator.
“He has had a profound impact and he’s been a huge part of the success we’ve had as a team,” said Venables. He stands for everything that’s right about his program.”
The shock and outpouring of emotions were instantly felt throughout Oklahoma as well as around the world especially with OU head coach Bob Stoops, who is currently out of the country.
“Austin was a great young man, a great young man to coach and a great teammate,” said Stoops in a statement Thursday.
The shocking news brings to light the recent successes Box was apart of. Successes that now help celebrate his young life.
Just five days earlier, the 22-year-old senior walked across the stage at his college graduation, and this past football season, he was an essential part of the Sooner’s conference championship.
“He was instrumental in the turnaround that we had to finish the way we did and become Big 12 Champions,” said Venables. “Without him, I’m not sure we would have finished the same way.”
In his statement, Coach Stoops added, “He played an integral part in our success the last three years and was looking forward to a big senior year.”
Venables said he wouldn’t be surprised if the team dedicated the season to Box, saying “he’s such a big part of what we do, of this family, to not have him here leaves a really empty feeling and it’s really, really hard.”
Box, a three sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball at Enid High School, always had his sights on playing for the Sooners.
“He was living a dream. We all have dreams, we all have goals. For a lot of us it never happens, we don’t get to live those dreams,” said Venables. “He was living his dream being an Oklahoma Sooner. He grew up his whole life wanting to do exactly what he was doing every day.”
His success began long before his days at Oklahoma.
At Enid, he led his team from multiple positions, playing quarterback, safety, running back and even wide receiver. As a senior he completed 126 passes for 1,938 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the gound he amassed 1,086 yards and 15 touchdowns and managed 71 tackles. Rivals ranked him as the No. 46 overall player in its annual Top 100 in 2007, and he was named the No. 1 player overall in Oklahoma that year.
"Great kid, great competitor, very respectful, was out of his league in high school football but never showed that side, never big timed anybody, very coachable, very respectable. I loved him I absolutely loved him," Coach Parker said.
After signing his national letter of intent to play football with the Sooners, Box enrolled at OU in the spring of 2007 and redshirted that season.
Throughout his career, Austin faced many injuries that easily would have dampened the spirit and drive of most, but for Box it was different.
During his career, he worked through multiple knee injuries, an elbow injury, and most recently back surgery in August of 2010 that many thought would keep him out of the game for good.
“He’s got great toughness to him, and a desire that’s unmatched and it meant more to him not to let his teammates and his coaches down than it did than anything,” said Venables.
After missing the first five games of the 2010 season, Austin returned and made his presence known helping the Sooners win all five of the final games that season including a Big 12 Championship title and Fiesta Bowl win.
“He exemplified everything that you want in your players. You want to talk about adversity, he faced a lot and it was never an option not to fight his way out of it and put himself back in position to contribute,” said Venables.
From 2008-2010 he played in 30 games, started in 11, and tallied 107 tackles, 64 of which were unassisted. Not to mention he nabbed his second career interception during November’s Beldam matchup to help the Sooners to a 47-41 victory over Oklahoma State.
“He appreciated it, he respected it, he valued it, he wore it on his sleeve,” said Venables about Box and his love of the game. “He is one of the most selfless guys I’ve ever been around, a great leader for us.”
Whether on the field, in the locker room or just hanging out with friends and fans, Austin Box was undoubtedly living the dream, and because of it, he will be remembered, always.
Austin's funeral service will take place Friday May 27 at 11 a.m. at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid. The church is located at 2505 W. Garriot Road.
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