OKLAHOMA CITY – Less than two months ago, OU linebacker Austin Box suddenly and tragically died after being found unconscious at a house in El Reno. Now, the Box family is finding out new details, and speaking out about their son's death.
According to an informational copy of the state medical examiner's report, released Monday, Box had five different drugs in his system when he died.
The report cites that the cause of death was due to ‘probable mixed drug toxicity.' Oxymorphone, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxycodon were all found in Box's system according to the report. The medical examiner also found alpraxolam, an anti-anxiety, anti-depression drug in Box's system as well.
The report rules Box's death an accident and also notes his history of chronic pain. Box suffered a number of injuries that required surgery beginning as early as his sophomore year at Enid High School to more recently when he severely injured his back last season.
Although the official cause of death has not been released, the report says the probable cause of death was pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and aspiration pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling foreign substances).
Wade Burleson, family friend and an Enid church pastor says Austin suffered silently.
"He had an aversion to take pain medications. Gail and Craig, his parents had no clue that he was self medicating," said Burleson.
The Enid pastor has known the family for more than 20 years and watched Box grow up and play football. He says Austin is defined by his life and not his death.
"Don't ever judge a man until you've walked in his shoes," said Burleson". "With the amount of injuries Austin had nobody really knows what was going on in his body."
Later this week, the medical examiner's office will release the actual cause of death report and the Box family released the following statement in preparation for the report:
There is no greater pain than the loss of a child. The pain is intensified by knowing that the death of your child could have been prevented. Austin was a young man who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was grateful for his many talents, and felt he must always live up to his gifts. Two words he spoke often say so much, "Of course". It did not matter who was asking, whether it be a fan asking for an autograph, or simply a stranger wanting to talk--the response was a smile and "Of course". His greatest fear was letting down other people whether it was his teammates, coaches, friends, or family. In his twenty-two years of life, he never thought to complain because he felt he had been given so much.
Our son endured many injuries during the last seven years of his life, most of them required surgery. The last was the most frightening for him. In August of the 2010 season, he had a disc rupture in his back, and he lost the feeling in his left foot. We were certain his career was over. As always though, he battled back when he saw the team needed him. Willing his battered body back to the field where only the most elite do battle. It is with much sadness; we look back and see that recently Austin had turned to other methods of managing his pain. Methods that we hope if others are employing, they will see this tragic accident as a message and think about the consequences. Our greatest regret is that Austin did not feel he could share his pain with those who loved him, and those he touched. He chose to suffer in silence rather than to feel he let someone down, or hurt his family.
We will forever love, honor, and cherish his memory. Thank you to all of those who have shared stories about how Austin touched your lives in a positive way. We are comforted by the knowledge that God knows what is in a man's heart. Anyone that knew Austin would give testament to his pure heart. The love and pride we feel for our son cannot be diminished by the cause of his death. He gave us so much joy and so many wonderful memories. He will forever be "Mommy's baby" and "Daddy's little boy".
With much grief and sadness,
Craig and Gail Box
Box died on May 19 at the age of 22 after being found unconscious at a home in El Reno. Box was set to being his senior season as the Sooner's starting linebacker.
Box helped lead Enid High School to the Class 6A title game in 2006, playing quarterback, running back,wide receiver and free safety.
He redshirted with the Sooners in 2007 and played in 10 games as a freshman in 2008, starting four at middle linebacker.
In 2009 he played in 10 games, starting a game each at outside linebacker and inside linebacker.