Thursday, September 1, 2011
Sooners plan touching Austin Box tribute
By David Ubben
The No. 12 jersey for Oklahoma senior Austin Box will get plenty of attention this season.
After talking it over with Box's parents, quarterback Landry Jones will keep his No. 12 jersey as a tribute to his teammate, and a defensive player will wear Box's number to honor him each week. Box died on May 19 from an overdose of painkillers.
The team will announce who will wear the jersey each Friday of the season.
"I think it's a neat way to help (parents) Craig and Gail and their family. I think when you lose somebody tragically ... or a family member, I think one of the things we fear the most is people forgetting and just kind of sweeping it under the rug," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Box's former position coach. "It happens. That's just the way it is. It kind of stinks.
"But I think that particularly being on the stage that Austin was, I'm sure it's incredibly difficult for them, particularly when the season's now back upon us," he said.
The Sooners will also wear a custom decal with Box's name and jersey number on each player's helmet. The team has left his locker untouched and keeps his spot unoccupied in warmups before practice and in team meetings.
"I think this is a terrific opportunity for us to help them as they continue to try to grieve and remember Austin the right way," Venables said. "I know that we feel honored to have that opportunity."
Oklahoma's tribute has a precedent. Missouri linebacker Aaron O'Neal died in 2005, and during his senior season, different Missouri players wore his No. 25.
"Talking with the Boxes, they gave me the blessing of wearing it, and it's just an honor to be in Austin's company and know he's looking down on me," Jones said. "Whenever I'm feeling weak or tired, I kind of call on him and remember the way he played the game."