Sooners still recovering from LB's death

DALLAS -- The Oklahoma Sooners are still trying to come to grips with the offseason death of linebacker Austin Box.

"The hurt's still there, you miss him, the players do, and you had a young guy that was really a character that everyone gravitated to and was a friend that is now gone," coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. "It's just something you never forget. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other though and keep moving forward."

Box, who would have been a senior this season, died May 19. The Oklahoma medical examiner's office two weeks ago ruled Box's death accidental after a preliminary toxicology report showed there were five prescription painkillers and an anti-anxiety drug in his system when he died.

Stoops said the team will address how to move ahead without forgetting Box when it gathers next week for the start of fall practice. But the coach said during the Big 12 media day that he's still not exactly sure how he will handle that.

The Sooners will wear Box's No. 12 on the back of their helmets this season in memory of their teammate.

Senior linebacker Travis Lewis described Box as one of his best friends.

"My main thing is with my faith, I stopped asking why a long time ago and placed it in God's hands and know that everything happens for a reason," Lewis said. "He's still giving us gifts to this day, he's motivating us, he makes everybody know not to live for tomorrow but live for today. And he's brought our team closer together."

Stoops said there are no words to truly describe how hurt the team is from losing Box and that he's still uncertain about how he handled things in the wake of the tragedy.

"I don't know how I did it, to be honest with you," Stoops said. "I think the players, more than anything, leaned on each other. Us as coaches leaned on them."