Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box, 22, died Thursday afternoon after being found unresponsive in a home in El Reno, Okla. Box's death was confirmed by the state medical examiner's office, according to multiple outlets in Oklahoma and the Associated Press. OU president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione have also issued statements offering condolences to Box's family.
The newspaper in Box's hometown, Enid, Okla., reported earlier Thursday that he had been found unresponsive Thursday morning in El Reno, taken to the hospital there by ambulance and then airlifted to a hospital in Oklahoma City, about a half-hour away. No official cause of death has been determined. (See update below.)
Box was rated as the No. 1 prospect in Oklahoma and one of the top-50 prospects in the nation in 2007, and emerged as a regular on the Sooner defense as a redshirt freshman in 2008. He appeared in 30 games with 11 starts over three injury-plagued seasons, and last year returned from a back injury that cost him the first five games of the season to record 37 tackles over the last nine, the last five as a starter. He was expected to start this season as a fifth-year senior for a team likely to open the year as No. 1 in the preseason polls.
Box is the second major college football player to die in as many weeks. On May 12, Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas was found dead in Jacksonville, Fla., of unknown causes after attending a house party the previous night. A Wayne State (Mich.) player, Courtney (Cortez) Smith, was also killed earlier this month in a shooting in downtown Detroit. Crime Stoppers of Michigan is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to Smith's killer.
[UPDATE, 4:36 p.m. ET] The El Reno police officer who responded to the house where Box was found Thursday morning wrote in his report that another person at the house was attempting to perform CPR on Box when he arrived and told the officer he believed Box had overdosed. Earlier, the same person told 911 operators that Box "takes pain pills and he's not responding to me." Under a section marked "Offense Category," the police report lists "Controlled Dangerous Substance."
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.