Wort Set to Step His Game Up in Box's Absence

A year ago, linebacker Tom Wort went up for a ball in practice and came down awkwardly on his knee, tearing his ACL and sidelining him for the entire 2009 season.

The other day, middle linebacker Austin Box, who was competing for the starting MIKE spot with Wort, suffered yet another setback in his injury-prone career with a flare up in his disc that was not a result of any hit sustained in preseason workouts.

The bottom line, though: Wort, who almost certainly figures to be the starter, knows the value of every down and the luxury of being on the field.

"Right, it's a privilege to play football," Wort said. "You know, that just makes you realize that you've got to take [no] snap for granted, and, you know, you can be playing one day and, you know, the next second it's taken away from you. The season's taken away from you, and, you know, football is a hard sport like that. It's one of the downsides, but it's just a rough deal."

For that reason, he said it was really tough to see a good teammate and friend in Box go down.

"It was heartbreaking," Wort said. "It was Sunday night when I talked to him, and it really just was heartbreaking. That feeling of getting hurt and having the season taken away from you is something you never want to feel."

And it's not just being on the field in front of the 85,000+ fans, but also the camaraderie amongst the team in live action that a player is vacated from.

"You get taken away from your teammates," Wort said. "It's just you miss out on so much, and it's just a heartbreaking feeling. And, you know, my heart goes out to Austin."

With that said, even though Wort will be the starter, he's not taking that attitude into the rest of camp.

"No, definitely not, I'm not going in with like, until game one, when I'm actually on the field," Wort said. "That's when we'll know."

It's something that will be make him work harder.

"You know, I'm going to keep pushing myself and just keep going," Wort said. "I've got to better myself every day at camp every practice until that first game. You know, I'm still the least experienced linebacker out of the few of us, and, you know, I just need to grow with myself, but that's all. I'm just working for that every day, it's just proving myself."

This whole situation surrounding the linebacking group with Box's injury and Wort needing to step up as a youngster prompted a talk between him and leader, junior linebacker Travis Lewis.

"You know, me and Travis actually had a heart to heart today because, you know, we had kind of a dropoff in practice," Wort said after Tuesday's workout. "We didn't have as good a practice as we did yesterday. And he had a heart to heart with me and told me I need to step up, and Travis has got together and just out there on the benches and just talking about it.

"You know, I just got to establish myself. I've got to prove myself every day. Now that there's one less competition, I can't take it easy, you know, take a break. I got to just keep going, so that's where we're at right now. I just got to keep working."

And that's his promise.

"I give it my all," Wort said. "I love to play this game. As I said, it's a privilege, and I take every snap like it's a privilege, and, you know, I hustle to the ball. You know, I love to hit people, and it's just something I'm going to do. I've been doing it since I showed up here, and I'm just going to be continuing to do it."

The Sooners will need that if they want this group to be as good as it can potentially be.

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