Sooners Select Right Candidate to Honor Box

NORMAN, Okla. — Head coach Bob Stoops announced this morning that middle linebacker Tom Wort will honor the late Austin Box by being the first Sooner to wear his No. 12 this year, and that is the appropriate choice for a number of reasons.

First, Wort is one of the guys on the team who knew him the best.

Not only is he a member of this defense, but the two worked together at the same position.

Box and Wort figured to share time at MIKE this year.

Because of that, the two were inevitably closer.

"I mean, I feel like I lost a friend more than I lost a teammate," Box said earlier this camp. "It definitely makes the guys come together. But the guys who were friends with him know it wasn't just a teammate [that we lost]. It was actually, you know, a friend. We spent time with him. It's just going to bring the team together, but the really close friends, you know, we all came together, too. So, I mean it's hard to deal with. It's hard to deal with it at all."

Second, he's a leader for this defense now, just like Box.

One of the things people will remember most about Box was not only his production on the field, but his leadership and ability to will this team to victory in light of that.

Wort has picked up his game from an accountability stand point, and he's assumed the leadership responsibility, especially since weak side linebacker Travis Lewis suffered a broken toe in his left foot, forcing OU to operate without two starting linebackers.

Just listen to what nickelback Tony Jefferson said about Wort, which the rest of the team has echoed.

"I mean, Tom Wort, you know, he's stepping up right now," Jefferson said. "He's taken over that role, too."

Third, he brings the same intangibles on the field that Box brought.

His heart.

His toughness.

His love for the game.

All of that comes out in Wort's play just as it did in Box's play.

He lays it on the line each and every snap, and that's just what Box found a way to do.

Wort is clearly the suitable candidate to give up his No. 21 jersey for the first game and instead honor Box by donning the Crimson No. 12 his best friend used to take the field with at Oklahoma Memorial Memorial Stadium.

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