Sooners' Box, 22, found dead; overdose 'probable'

by | Senior Writer

Oklahoma senior starting middle linebacker Austin Box died Thursday from a probable "overdose," an El Reno, Okla., police spokesperson told

An El Reno, Okla., police spokesman told that Box was found unresponsive with unknown medical issues in an El Reno residence. He was then transported to El Reno's Mercy Hospital and later airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City. The El Reno police spokesman told there is an ongoing investigation. University of Oklahoma president David L. Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione issued statements on Box.

John Cobble III, a friend of Box's, called 911 when Box was unresponsive. On the tape of the 911 call, obtained by the Tulsa World, Cobble said that Box "takes pain pills."

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"The University family is deeply saddened by the tragic death of student-athlete Austin Box," Boren said. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office, said Box's body was being sent there for examination.

El Reno police chief Ken Brown said officers and medics on Thursday morning responded to a call at an address in the city about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City of an unresponsive male "with unknown medical issues." Brown identified the man as Box and said he first was taken to an El Reno hospital, then transferred by air ambulance to an Oklahoma City facility.

The Box family released a statement through Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City:

"The Box family wishes to express their appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy from across the state. We particularly want to thank the University of Oklahoma, the coaching staff and players for their kindness and support.

"Austin loved everything about Oklahoma -- the people, his hometown of Enid and his many close friends. Most of all, Austin loved his family and we loved him. We invite you to join us in celebrating his life."

Box earned his college degree last weekend, the Oklahoman reported.

"Austin Box will be greatly missed by his many friends and teammates in the Athletics Department and all across campus," Castiglione said. "Grief counseling is being made available to members of the team and his close friends."

Castiglione said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is out of the country but that Stoops and the Sooners' assistant coaches have been in contact with Box's family.

Some of his teammates responded quickly on Twitter after learning of Box's death. Quarterback Blake Bell said "the sooner family will miss you brother! You are in a better place." Defensive end Frank Alexander tweeted: "We gone hold it down for u homie."

A senior from Enid, Okla., Box missed the first five games last season with a back injury suffered in the preseason. He returned and started the final five games for the Sooners.

He also started one game as a sophomore and four as a freshman.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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