DALLAS -- No Oklahoma players sit in the chair once occupied by Austin Box. The 22-year-old linebacker died in May, but his legacy lives on in the Sooners locker room.
Box collapsed and died at a friend's house on May 19. An autopsy later revealed he had five prescription painkillers and an anti-anxiety drug in his system, and his death was ruled accidental. Box suffered a number of injuries throughout his career, including a back injury that kept him off the field for the first five games. Box's teammates remember him most for his ability to battle through his injuries to help the Sooners.
“It’s still difficult and I don’t think we’ve totally overcome it yet," quarterback Landry Jones said. "I think some people are still dealing with it. I know for me, I’m still trying to figure out what to think about it and getting my mind kind of wrapped around it to be OK with it. You walk around the locker room and you see Box’s locker missing. You just wonder why it happened. I think our team is still going through some stuff, but it’s definitely motivating knowing you’re not just playing for yourself.”
“I feel that we’ve learned a big lesson from that and that is to live life to the fullest," wide receiver Ryan Broyles said. "You never know when your last day is. Box was a great guy. He fought through many surgeries. He happened to almost get addicted to painkillers but when he was in the locker room, when he was on the field, he was going to give it his all. We feel like his perseverance through all of that is helping us persevere through tragedy."
Oklahoma will wear Box's No. 12 on the back of their helmets and the players are thinking of other ways to honor him during the season. Coach Bob Stoops said Box's death united the players to lean on each other, which has helped through the grieving process.
"There's no words that truly can describe how you hurt and how the players hurt," Stoops said. "Austin was a great, great spirit in the locker room. Everybody, he was a friend to everybody, and he's one of those special characters, a young person that everybody loved to see."