Chucky Mullins: The legacy left behind

By Staff
Scot Beard
OXFORD, Miss. -Dozens of highly-prized recruits line the field during pregame warm-ups at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the campus of the University of Mississippi as the host Rebels prepare to play division rival Arkansas.
A handful of the players seem unimpressed, as if they had done this hundreds of times and the experience was nothing new to them. Others stare on in wide-eyed wonder at the spectacle that is Southeastern Conference football.
The look of amazement on the faces of these recruits pale in comparison to the joy on the face of a young boy standing in the corner of the stadium looking up at a bronze bust standing atop a brick column bearing the phrase "Never Quit."
The boy tuned out the other 60,580 people in the stadium disappeared and, for a brief moment, he stood alone with Chucky Mullins.
His father, a member of the 1989 Ole Miss football team, looked on with approval before pulling out a camera to capture the scene for the family album.
"Chucky is a wonderful human and a great player," said former teammate Mac Smith.
Mullins played less than one full season for the Rebels and his final game was 20 years ago, but for many Ole Miss fans he is still No. 38 in the program and No. 1 in their hearts.
He was one of the first players to run onto the field that day, but his career came to an end midway through the first quarter when a hit on Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines left Mullins with four shattered vertebrae. He was paralyzed instantly.
One of the first questions Mullins asked while he was in Baptist Hospital in Memphis was if Gaines caught the pass. When told Gaines did not make the catch, Mullins replied, "I did my job."
"The injury was devastating to the team," Smith said. "We used that as a rally cry for the season."
The team finished the season with an 8-4 record, including a victory in the Liberty Bowl.
Mullins played a big part in that victory.
The Rebels had to travel past Baptist Hospital everyday as they headed to practice for the Liberty Bowl. Members of the Ole Miss coaching staff heard players ask about Mullins each time the team bus passed the hospital.
Knowing Mullins had not left the facility since the day he was injured, head coach Billy Brewer arranged for Mullins to visit the Rebel locker room before the game. The players began chanting, "It's time, it's time, it's time."
The emotional squad took the field and dominated Air Force for an impressive 42-29 victory.
"We won the Liberty Bowl because of Chucky coming back into the locker room," Smith said. "It was the most inspirational thing I've ever been through."
Support from across the nation poured in for Mullins following the accident. More than one million dollars was raised for the Chucky Mullins Trust Fund.
Mullins exhibited a never-give-up attitude in the following months. From his hospital bed he inspired thousands with his determination and his smile.
"I think what it was with Chucky was his smile," said Carver Phillips, Mullins' caregiver. "The smile could capture your heart."
Though he never played football again, Mullins returned to Ole Miss to complete his degree in January of 1991. He became an even more popular fixture on campus following his return.
When it came time to elect Colonel Rebel, the seven candidates withdrew from contention so Mullins could get the Honor. Mullins remains the only unanimously elected Colonel Rebel at Ole Miss.
In 1990 the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity established the Chucky Mullins Courage Award to be presented annually to the Rebels' most outstanding defensive player.
On May 1, 1991, Mullins quit breathing and was rushed to the hospital. He never regained consciousness and died five days later from complications from a blood clot caused by his paralysis.
Ole Miss retired Mullins' No. 38 on Sept. 3, 2006. Mullins joins Archie Manning as the only other Rebel to have his number retired.
Mullins was buried in Russellville and Ole Miss fans still visit the gravesite to pay their respects.
"A lot of people visit his grave," said Phillips. "People from Mississippi call to find the location so they can visit as they come through the area."

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