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Prescription painkillers blamed in OU linebacker's death

University of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box had five different painkillers in his system when he died May 19.
BY RANDY ELLIS Published: July 12, 2011
/articleid/3584862/1/pictures/1463130">Photo - Gail and Craig Box discus the loss of their son, OU football player Austin Box, at their home in Enid, Monday, July 11, 2011. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman  ORG XMIT: KOD
Gail and Craig Box discus the loss of their son, OU football player Austin Box, at their home in Enid, Monday, July 11, 2011. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

“I am a guidance counselor at Enid High School and, yes, I see drugs and what it does to the young person, their attitude about school, their attitude about life, and I see them give up,” Gail said. “I know the signs of drug use. It is not my job to diagnose but it is my job to refer someone when I suspect. And there have been many times when I have suspected and many times when I have referred. I have wracked my brain. Did I ignore signs? I don't know, but I do know that Austin was a silent sufferer.”

Gail said Austin was the type of person who wanted to please everyone, and might have been reluctant to say anything that would disappoint his parents.

If he had told them there was a problem, however, they would have helped him through it, she said. If there are other silent sufferers out there, she said she hopes they seek help.

Investigate the source

Austin, 22, died May 19 while staying in a friend's house in El Reno.

Now that the toxicology tests have been done, Craig said he hopes the El Reno police will investigate the source of the drugs.

The autopsy report listed the manner of Austin's death as “accident.” Both parents say they are confident the death was an accident and not a suicide.

Austin had a “beautiful girlfriend” and was extremely excited about the upcoming year and football season, Craig said.

“I would tell you with my last dying breath that (suicide) is absolutely not what happened,” Gail said. “It is my firm belief Austin did not know what he was taking. I'm not telling you he did not know they were painkillers. I'm telling you he did not know the extent of what he was taking.”

Craig said, “It's terrifying. It's maddening. It's sad and you can't do anything about it.”

Craig and Gail said their son had a wonderful heart and said one of their hopes is people won't let the way he died define his life.

“Austin was my hero,” Craig said. “I wish I was as nice a person as he was.”

Generous heart

The Boxes told many stories of their son's life. It is perhaps telling that none of them focused on his feats on the football field that often amazed OU football fans.

Instead, they recounted stories that showed Austin's generous heart — the things his friends will remember.

In eighth grade, there were 30-some kids on Austin's basketball team — more kids than they even had uniforms, Craig said.

The coach made sure everyone got a chance to suit up and play.

When other good players were taken out of the game, the coach would leave Austin on the floor.

It wasn't because Austin could score, his dad said.

It was because Austin would grab the rebounds and pass the ball to players who might not otherwise have a chance to score.

“That's who Austin was,” his dad said.

That's the Austin his parents want Oklahomans to remember.

OU Blog: Box's parents issue statement on report Sign/View the Austin Box Guest Book has disabled the comments for this article.


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