Thursday, September 22, 2011
Sooners find inspiration in No. 12
By David Ubben
Frank Alexander watched in Week 1 as one teammate -- linebacker Tom Wort -- honored another. He saw the difference.
Wort was chosen to wear Austin Box's No. 12 jersey for Oklahoma's game against Tulsa, the first time the Sooners had taken the field since Box died on May 19 from an apparent prescription drug overdose.
Frank Alexander wore the No. 12 jersey for Oklahoma against Florida State. "It was such a great honor," he said.
"If you watched the game, you could just tell, the way he was playing, that he was playing lights out for Box," Alexander said. "His whole demeanor on the field."
Shortly after that win, senior linebacker Travis Lewis approached Alexander and told him the team captains wanted Alexander to wear the nameless No. 12 jersey for one of the Sooners' biggest games of the year, last Saturday's 23-13 win over Florida State.
Alexander was the defense's player of the week against Tulsa after he notched one of the team's three sacks, intercepted a pass that he returned 27 yards and finished with three tackles. The process of making the decision, which is announced each Friday, is left to the captains, but Alexander could only smile when Lewis told him the news.
"Both of us came in 2007 together and I’ve known him since we were both getting recruited," Alexander said. "It was such a great honor, I felt like I had to come out and play big, and try to get us a win to help my team get any kind of win it could get."
Alexander, a native of Baton Rouge, La., had exactly 12 family members making the more than six-hour trip along the banks of the Gulf of Mexico from Baton Rouge to Saturday's game in Tallahassee.
Tributes for Box are all over for the Sooners, planned and spontaneous. After Kenny Stills made a game-changing, 37-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, a TV camera approached Stills on his way back to the sideline. Last year, Stills made headlines for a flamboyant spike that earned a very public scolding from coach Bob Stoops.
This time, on what may prove to be the biggest play of the Sooners' season?
Stills looked down so the camera couldn't see his face and subtly flashed a "1" with one hand and a "2" with the other.
Box is still everywhere for the Sooners. Against Florida State, his most public tribute was on the defensive line, which made three tackles, half of a sack, and wreaked constant havoc in the backfield, especially on the late drives after Stills made his catch.
"I came out the same way I usually come out, but some reason, this time," Alexander said, "it just felt like everything was going to be all right."