The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

August 31, 2011

OU defense to rotate Austin Box’s number 12

NORMAN – Every Oklahoma huddle breaks with “12” said in unison. It’s become more than a number. It stands for hard work, working as a team and being accountable to one another.

It was the number former Enid standout  Austin Box wore at OU from 2008-10.

“I don’t know if you can put into words what it means to wear that number,” Sooner quarterback Landry Jones said. “It’s more than playing for yourself. You’re representing somebody else there.”

It’s been Jones’ number since 2009. It’s common in college football for offensive and defensive players to wear the same numbers. As long as they’re not on the field at the same time, there’s no rule against it.

But Jones thought about giving it up after Box’s death in May. Sooner players were thinking about the best way to honor their teammate. Retiring the number was one of the original thoughts.

Jones wanted to leave that in the hands of Box’s family.

“I talked to the Boxes, and they told me they wanted me to wear it, so I’m going to wear it,” Jones said.

He won’t be alone.

The Sooners decided the best way to honor Box was to keep his number part of the defense this season, too. Each week, a different defensive player will wear it — as an honor.

“To have different guys wear that jersey would be awesome. I hope I get to wear it one game,” safety/linebacker Tony Jefferson said. “Whoever wears it, I know he’ll play his heart out. I can’t explain what that would feel like.”

Who wears it will be up to linebacker Travis Lewis and Jones. Although the quarterback admits Lewis’ recommendation isn’t going to be overruled.

“Ultimately, he is the leader of the defense. He knows the guys on defense a little better than I do. He has a little better feel,” Jones said. “I think we’ll probably do whatever he thinks is best. It’s both our decisions, but I’m going to trust his judgment in what he thinks he’s going to do.”

OU coach Bob Stoops said he’ll announce the day before games who will wear the number.

The goal was to make sure the Sooners’ tribute went beyond a simple sticker on their helmets. They will wear that, too, but they wanted some way to remember him as a player who strove to make himself better and pushed others to do the same.

“All it means to me is that I’m going to play as hard as I can every play, just because that’s the type of player he was and that’s what he would want us to do,” tight end James Hanna said.

The Sooners also believe they are a tighter group now because they dealt with Box’s death together.

“There’s a brotherhood. There’s a chip on our shoulder because we did lose a friend and a brother. We have come together as a family. We’re unified,” cornerback Demontre Hurst said. “It’s amazing to see how we became closer as a way of honoring him.”

That will be symbolized in who wears No. 12, starting with the season opener at 7 Saturday night against Tulsa at Owen Field.

“When we put it on, we have to play like Box would play,” Hurst said. “That’s giving it your all on every down and in every quarter.”

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