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Austin Box remembered for loyalty, love of family

BY JAKE TROTTER Staff Writer Published: May 27, 2011

— Brent Venables called him the embodiment of loyalty.

Bob Stoops remembered how he always gave it his all.

Wade Burleson admired the way he loved his family.

Friends and family from Norman to Enid packed the sanctuary Friday to celebrate the life of Austin Box.

“It's hard to portray a young. ... but full life,” Stoops, Oklahoma's head football coach, said during the funeral at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid. “But we can reflect on what Austin gave all of us.

“And he gave us a lot.”

Box, 22, died May 19 after staying at a friend's house in El Reno. He had just received his college degree in criminology-sociology the weekend before and would have been the Sooners' starting middle linebacker this season.

“Until you walk a mile in a man's shoes, it's very difficult to judge a man," said Burleson, pastor at Emmanuel, who was asked by the Box family to address reports Box died from an overdose of prescription drugs. “As a sophomore he literally broke his back in high school, and under doctors' care, the management for his pain began.

“For those of you that want to define Austin by his death, I'm here to tell you that he is to be defined by his life.”

Dozens of teammates and coaches arrived by bus from Norman and sat behind the crimson-colored casket. Former OU basketball great Brent Price, who starred at Enid before eventually playing in the NBA, sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Austin had a great impact on the community, impact on friends and impact on a city like no one I've ever seen,” said Chickasha High School football coach Tom Cobble, Box's coach at Enid High. “He had the ability to inspire great things.”

Box's legacy as a hometown hero was cemented when the two-way star spearheaded the Plainsmen to a stunning playoff run all the way to the Class 6A state championship game, which earned him Oklahoman Defensive Player of the Year honors. Soon after, he signed with OU to play football.

“Living the dream. He often said that,” recalled Venables, OU's defensive coordinator, who recruited Box. “That's pretty cool. How many people can really say that? Austin did it.

“As a football player, he had incredible toughness. I lose count of all the injuries he had. But I don't think it was ever an option as to what the next step was for Austin. He was going to make sure he continued to live that dream.”

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