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Oklahoma football: Austin Woods an inspiration to Sooner teammates

The offensive lineman faced cancer and the required treatments. But Woods continue to practice, lift weights, attend class — and came out a winner all the way around.
By Stephanie Kuzydym Published: December 28, 2012

Austin never tried to take a day off because of cancer. He only missed a practice or two because of his scheduled chemotherapy treatments.

“I don't know that he missed two workouts all summer,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “What 300-pounder wouldn't want to miss one of those days when you're out there running?”

During treatment, a large needle was inserted into the port in his chest, and for the next four hours, he received different chemicals. Usually after treatments like the ones Austin received, a patient is tired for at least 48 hours.

Austin was always back out on the football field or in the weight room the next day.

“You want to complain and then you look around the weight room and see Austin,” Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard said during two-a-days. “Then you realize your Wednesday isn't really going that bad.”

Austin served as an inspiration. Don, Austin's dad, has a photo of the Sooners' offensive line with shaved heads saved to his phone. Clayton, Austin's younger brother, pointed to a kid walking around campus before one of the home games in September.

“Look, that guy's wearing the shirt,” Clayton said.

A red tank top with Austin's No. 50 was on the back. The words “Beat Cancer” were on the front.

“We sold out of those,” Clayton said.

Clayton, an offensive lineman at Highland Park High School in Dallas, spread the No. 50 ‘Beat Cancer' by writing it on his game tape, just like Austin did every Saturday.

“Austin's been an incredible inspiration,” Bob Stoops said. “It's just been remarkable what he's been able to do. All through two a days. All through season. He's just a tough, inspirational guy. Players love him.”

By Oct. 1, Austin ended his chemotherapy.

Exactly one month later, he found out his cancer was in remission.

“It's very great,” Austin said at the time. “I'm just thankful I got through it, and I'm really happy that I made it through in not too many setbacks along the way. I'm just really glad to be done with it."

Although Austin's name was never announced in a starting lineup, he saw some playing time in a majority of games.

And each week, Don and Liz watched as a little more of Austin's strength returned.

Through the treatments, Liz, Don and Austin's roommate, Bronson Irwin, OU right guard, sat and talked with Austin about football, the treatment and life. Sometimes he fell asleep. Sometimes they laughed. Once, before it all started, Austin asked Liz what it would feel like.

“He never talked to me about being scared,” Liz said.

And he never asked how strong he would need to be to continue to play football and undergo aggressive chemotherapy treatment.

It was already instilled in Austin from almost 16 years ago, when he saw his mom go through breast cancer. He remembers little of those days.

That's why he also wears his strength on his wrist.

When he places his hand on the field in Dallas, on his white athletic tape, in black Sharpie ink will be the words “Beat Cancer.”

To some, it will show a problem. To Austin, his family, his team and the Oklahoma Sooners, it will show the strength of No. 50.

And as Liz begins to clap and the pink and lime green ribbons on her bracelet begin to jingle, OU will have more to cheer about than the bowl game.

Austin Woods beat cancer.