Oklahoma Sooners: Austin Box

ENID, Okla. – Friends and family of Austin Box continue to find ways to remember him.

[+] EnlargeAustin Box
Courtesy Austin Box FoundationChampions Park in Enid, Okla., is being built in honor of former Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box.
Saturday, more than 100 volunteers gathered at 10th and Chestnut in Enid, Okla., to help build “Champions Park,” a playground in honor of Box, the former Oklahoma linebacker who passed away from a prescription medication overdose in 2011.

“Austin was loved by so many,” said his sister, Whitney Box, who is also the director of strategic and long-range planning for the city, and designed the park. “It’s gratifying to see this all come together.”

The park won’t officially open until the ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 19, which will be the two-year anniversary of Box’s death. On Saturday, most of the park’s infrastructure was built thanks to the help of several volunteers, including former Sooners baseball player Tyson Seng and Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, who both attended Enid High with Box.

[+] EnlargeAustin Box
Jerry Laizure/Getty ImagesAustin Box died in 2011 from a prescription medication overdose.
Members from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control were also on hand. Whitney Box said her family, as well as the Austin Box Foundation, has plans to work with the bureau beginning this year on getting the word out about the dangers of prescription drug use.

“It’s becoming an epidemic; it’s been an epidemic,” said a special agent of the bureau who asked that his name to not be used because he works undercover. “With Austin, he’s not a classic example of someone you would expect to die from a prescription drug overdose.

“Kids don’t realize how dangerous prescription drugs can be. We want to raise awareness that this is something that can put your life in danger.”

The Centers for Disease Control rank Oklahoma as one of the top states for both prescription painkiller sales and drug overdose death rates. Prescription drugs cause more than 80 percent of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma.

Kenny Stills honoring Austin Box

August, 27, 2012
Oklahoma is no longer honoring Austin Box by wearing the No. 12 this season.

The Sooners will never forget, though. Receiver Kenny Stills continues to wear a rubber bracelet to honor his fallen teammate, who died in May 2011.

“It says always in the heart, Austin Box,” Stills said. “It’s funny. I’ve had plenty of these, and this is the only one that’s never broken.

“It means something to me.”

Video: Honoring Austin Box

May, 19, 2012

Austin Box passed away one year ago today. Here's the College Gameday video from December on the way the Box family and University of Oklahoma have chosen to remember him.
Connor Choate grew up in Enid idolizing Austin Box.

This week, Choate became the first recipient of the Austin Box Memorial Scholarship.

“I really looked up to him, like every other kid around here did,” said Choate, a senior at Enid High School who will attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall. “In Enid, he was absolutely iconic.”

Box, who was Oklahoma’s starting middle linebacker, passed away last May after ingesting a lethal combination of prescription drugs. Earlier this year, the Box family established the Austin Box “12” Foundation. The first move the foundation made was to annually award a one-time $3,000 college scholarship to an outgoing senior at Enid, Box’s high school alma mater.

“We were looking for somebody that exemplified Austin’s best characteristics and embodied who he was,” said Box’s older sister, Whitney, an OU graduate who works in Enid's city planning department. “Connor was the perfect candidate.”

From a larger pool of applicants, seven Enid students were interviewed by Whitney, as well as two of Austin's best friends, Matthew Athey and John Dillingham. Because Box loved quoting movies, each student had to submit their favorite movie quote, too.

“Austin always had a great sense of humor,” Whitney said. “So if you didn’t laugh during the interview, it didn’t bode well for you.”

Choate, who plans to major in energy management at OU, laughed plenty during his interview. But Wednesday after his name was called during the scholarship announcement, Choate was brought to tears.

“I’m not going to lie, I cried a little bit,” he said. “When Austin’s dad (Craig Box) told the back story about Austin and what the scholarship meant, it really struck me.”

While the scholarship will be an annual staple, the Box family has a larger vision for the “12” Foundation. Box’s mom Gail, a high school counselor at Enid High, is planning to retire from her job next year and travel around the state to talk to kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

“If the foundation can save one life,” Whitney said, “it will be worth it.”
The loss of Brent Venables will have a tremendous impact on Oklahoma each Saturday but could have a even bigger impact on the Sooners on National Signing Day each February.

Venables was one of the best recruiters on the Sooners staff, recruiting the Dallas/Fort Worth area as good as anyone in the country while also closing quality recruits from Florida, Las Vegas and Kansas in the last six years.

Here’s a look at various recruits Venables has recruited to Oklahoma since 2006 and their impact (or lack thereof) on the program:

Video: Oklahoma honors Austin Box

December, 3, 2011
"College GameDay" looks at the touching way the Box family and University of Oklahoma have chosen to remember the late Austin Box.
Oklahoma has named the final two players who will honor Austin Box by wearing his No. 12 jersey without a name on the back.

Box, who would have been a senior, died in May.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming will honor the linebacker by wearing his jersey on Saturday against Oklahoma State when Oklahoma plays for the Big 12 title and a ninth trip to the BCS since the 2000 season.

In the Sooners' bowl game, sophomore safety Tony Jefferson will wear the jersey.
Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis will wear the nameless No. 12 jersey for the Sooners on Saturday against Texas Tech in Norman.

A different defensive player has worn the jersey each game this season as a tribute to the Sooners' former teammate, Austin Box, who died in May.

Quarterback Landry Jones kept his No. 12 jersey after discussing it with the Box family.

Other defenders who have worn the jersey include Tom Wort, Frank Alexander, Travis Lewis and Javon Harris.


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