ADDISON, Texas — Bob Stoops had never spoken at a funeral before.
Until he spoke at the funeral of Austin Box.
“It was hard,” Stoops said in an interview with The Oklahoman before Thursday night's OU Caravan to Dallas.
“It's something you don't ever want to do.”
It's been two weeks since Box died after being found unresponsive at a friend's home.
Two agonizing weeks for Oklahoma's football coach.
“There's no way to describe it,” Stoops said. “I don't even want to try and do it. Words don't do it justice. It's been very tough.”
Box had just received his college degree the weekend before he died and would have been OU's starting middle linebacker this season.
The day of Box's funeral, tragedy struck the Sooner football community again when former All-American safety Brandon Everage drowned in a river at the age of 30.
“We are with these guys everyday,” Stoops said. “And so much (people say) ‘It's just winning, just money, just them getting their benefits.' But it's not.
“We interact with these kids everyday. And it hurts. We are very much emotionally attached to them, and they are to us.”
Because of that, Stoops feels even more for defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who not only was Box's position coach, but has had to deal with the unexpected death of his brother, as well.
“I remember when I was a position coach, my guys are my guys. You're attached to your position guys,” Stoops said. “He is as attached to all the defensive guys, to all the players as I am, but when it's your position, you're in the meeting room every single day with them, it's even more emotional and closer and tighter and it makes it more difficult.
“So Brent has had a very difficult time. He'll be OK, but it's been hard. And then, with his brother, sudden death, unexpected, it's equally as sad.”
Venables and Stoops both spoke at Box's funeral, along with Box's high school football coach, his college roommate and the Box family pastor.
Stoops has lost his father and several close friends over the years. But last week in Enid was the first time he could recall taking the podium at a funeral.
“It's very uneasy and just something you don't ever want to be comfortable doing,” he said. “And I wasn't.”
Because of the summer break, Stoops hadn't seen many of his players until the funeral. Many arrived to the service by bus from Norman and were already seated in the choir loft behind the casket when Stoops walked to his seat on the stage.
“I didn't know how it would be presented, how it would be set up,” he said. “Then you walk up and all the guys are sitting behind Austin.
“It was like, ‘Wow.' It just got me. It hurt.”