CNHI News Service
CHICKASHA — The death of University of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box last week was a shock to a lot of people, especially his high school coach, Tom Cobble.
Cobble, who is preparing for the first season of his second stint at Chickasha High School, was head coach at Enid from 2003-07, having coached Box for four of his five seasons, from his freshman year to his standout senior campaign of 2006.
In an interview early this week Cobble took time to share his memories of Box.
“He was an incredible young man,” Cobble said. “Maybe one of the most incredible I’ve been around. He had such tremendous God-given talent, along with the size and the speed. He was extremely smart, a straight-A student, a tremendous gentleman.”
Cobble said one of the things that was so tremendous athletically about Box was he just had a love for the game and everything about it.
“He didn’t care if you were a backup receiver or third-team lineman, he treated everybody the same,” Cobble said. “So many kids don’t want to have much to do with the B-teamers, sophomores, or whatever, but Austin treated them all like athletes, all like football players. He had that special uniqueness about him, he just loved the game and everything that went with it.”
Cobble can recall plenty of big plays by Box, who played quarterback in addition to being a linebacker, which he played primarily at OU.
One play involving Box that stands out to Cobble is a block he made in a game against Midwest City.
“One of our defensive backs intercepted a ball on the 15- or 20-yard line,” Cobble said. “Austin was on the other side of the field. The young man who intercepted the pass wasn’t extremely fast. He was going up the far sideline and had one guy to beat to the end zone at midfield, and just out of nowhere, Austin came flying up from behind him and put a block on the guy and let the young man go score.
“He didn’t have to do that. Most kids wouldn’t have, but that was just the kind of guy he was.”
In another play against Midwest City, Box made an impressive play that contributed an offensive score.
“He dropped back to pass and he scrambled left and right a couple of times, then he ran up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown to win the game. It was on all the sports specials,” Cobble said.
“Then in his senior year in the second round of the playoffs, he made an incredible run,” Cobble said. “We beat No. 1 ranked Tulsa Washington in the first round of the playoffs, No. 3 Mustang in the second round, and No. 4- or 5-ranked Owasso in the third round before playing Jenks in the final. It was just an incredible run.”
Jenks won the Class 6A state championship game that season, but it didn’t change what Box did for the Plainsmen.
News of Box’s death brought shock, pain and devastation for Cobble.
“Tragedy doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word to encompass all that it is,” he said. “Life is just full of unusual twists and turns that we don’t have any control over, and that was just one of those tragedies that cut a tremendous life too short.”
While most young people prefer to be with their friends over their families, such was not the case for Box, Cobble said.
“He was an unusual kid in the way that he loved his family. He had two older sisters and was the baby of the family. He acknowledged them. Before games and after games, he went to his mom and dad, and that was a little bit unusual for a high school kid.”