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In Memory of Chucky Mullins

38 In Memory of Chucky Mullins 38

Chucky

Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins was born in Russellville, AL on July 8, 1969. He was orphaned in 1980 after his father abandoned him and his mother died. Carver Phillips, who worked at a recreation center, had befriended Chucky and when Chucky's mother died, Chucky asked to live with Phillips and his wife, Karen. The Phillips', despite having two young children of their own and living on meager wages, took in Chucky and his 16-year old brother. Chucky excelled in several sports, but was Russellville's football MVP. Chucky dreamed of playing football for Alabama, but after the Crimson Tide only invited Chucky to walk-on, he began looking at other SEC schools. Carver Phillips arranged a meeting with Ole Miss head football coach Billy Brewer. Brewer was favorably impressed with Chucky's desire, if not his athletic ability, and gave him a scholarship. Chucky was redshirted his freshman year, but in his second year, he had earned a position on special teams and was used as the fifth defense back in passing situations. It was third down and goal for Vanderbilt on the 12-yard line -- a passing situation -- when Chucky was injured ....

Chucky, moments before the start of the Vanderbilt game and his tragic injury ...

The Hit

Ole Miss hosted Vanderbilt for homecoming on October 28, 1989. 34,500 Ole Miss fans were on hand to cheer the Rebels. Vanderbilt took the opening kickoff and drove down to the Ole Miss 12-yard line. There, the Commodores faced a third-and-goal, an obvious passing situation where Chucky Mullins had earned a spot as the fifth defensive back. The ball was snapped and on a perfect timing pattern, Vanderbilt quarterback John Gromos delivered the ball to 6', 225 pound running back Brad Gaines. Arriving simultaneously with the ball was 6', 170 pound Chucky Mullins. The ball was sent flying out of Gaines' grasp as both he and Mullins tumbled to the ground ...

Chucky's hit saved a touchdown, but broke four vertebrae in his back, causing permanent paralysis

The Crowd is Silenced

When Ole Miss trainer Leroy Mullins arrived at Chucky's side, he leaned close and asked Chucky where he was hurting. Chucky replied, "I can't feel anything." Mullins promptly moved everyone away and made sure Chucky was not moved. Chucky was strapped to a board, his neck secured by a brace, and rushed away in an ambulance. Following a hurried preliminary examination in Oxford, Chucky was immediately airlifted to Memphis. There, a detailed examination revealed four of his neck vertebrae were broken. The third, fourth, fifth, and six vertebrae in his spine were completely shattered.

Ole Miss trainers work feverishly to prepare Chucky for movement to a hospital after the most feared football injury of all happened at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium ...

Scroll back to top of page to continue reading ....

A Dixie Farewell: The Life and Death of Chuck Mullins

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The Road to Recovery

Archie Manning and a young Peyton stop by at an Ole Miss football game to lend encouragement. At Chucky's left is Carver Phillips ...

After being airlifted to Memphis, Chucky spent 114 days in the hospital, which included a five-hour bone-graft operation to fuse his shattered vertebrae. Chucky also had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy, a surgical procedure designed to help him breathe. Due to the latter procedure, Chucky was unable to speak for three months. Mullins made significant progress, although he never re-gained feeling below his neck. In February 1990, he was transferred to Birmingham for rehabilitation. The goal of the rehabilitation was to help Chucky adjust to a new way of life and assist him to reach his goal of returning to Ole Miss to get his degree. While Chucky was undergoing rehabilitation, head football coach Billy Brewer was making plans for his return. Brewer arranged for students to assist Chucky to class and he coordinated special requirements with the faculty. On June 20, 1990, Chucky returned to Oxford to purse his degree.

The State Unites for Chucky

The State of Mississippi, other SEC schools, and the Nation rallied to support Chucky. More than $1 million was raised in a matter of months to pay for medical care for Chucky, including the building of a special house to meet his needs. Fellow students assisted Chucky to class when he re-enrolled after his injury ...

Chucky was amassing staggering medical bills associated with his injury. The University's catastrophic insurance policy provided $2 million in coverage or six months of care, whichever came first. Chucky's guardians did not have money or insurance. To help offset the medical expenses, the University established the Chucky Mullins Trust Fund less than a week after the injury. Against LSU that week, 42,354 fans turned out as the Rebels hit the field with Mullins' number 38 on the side of each helmet. In the stands, "We Love Chucky" buttons were distributed to fans. Fans from both schools donated a stunning $178,168 that day and another $53,395 was received in the mail for a total of $231,563 contributed during the first week. Eventually, the fund exceeded $1 million. The city of Oxford donated land for a home to be built for Chucky and his guardians at a cost of over $70,000. The house was specially designed for Chucky. Not only did people within the state contribute, but other SEC schools as well.

The End

On May 1, 1991, Chucky was getting dressed to attend class when he suddenly collapsed. He had stopped breathing and his nurse and Carver Phillips frantically called for an ambulance. Paramedics arrived and took over administering CPR as Chucky was rushed to the Oxford hospital and then to Memphis. Chucky had suffered a blot clot because of inactivity and poor circulation which traveled into his lungs and blocked his breathing. After five days, Chucky died on Monday, May 6th, at 2:35 with a football cradled in his arm. Brad Gaines was at his bedside when Chucky died. A memorial service was held at Ole Miss and on May 11th, funeral services for Chucky were held at Russellville Middle School gymnasium. Chucky was buried outside Russellville in a small cemetery. Brad Gaines visits Chucky's grave three times a year: Christmas, May 6th, and October 28th.

Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins
July 8, 1969-May 6, 1991

Brad Gaines (top right) and members of the Ole Miss football team file past Chucky's casket. Gaines attended the funeral as a member of the Ole Miss football team. Head football coach Billy Brewer told Gaines, "Today, you are an Ole Miss Rebel"

Chucky Mullins Courage Award

Although he's gone, Chucky Mullins continues to live in the hearts of Ole Miss fans as his No. 38 remains in the football program through the "Chucky Mullins Courage Award." Established in 1990 by the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the award is presented each spring to a top defensive player, who then has the honor of wearing Chucky's number the following season. Previous awards have gone to Chris Mitchell (1990), Jeff Carter (1991), Trea Southerland (1992), Johnny Dixon (1993), Alundis Brice (1994), Michael Lowery (1995), Derek Jones (1996), Nate Wayne (1997), and Gary Thigpen (1998), Ronnie Heard (1999), Anthony Magee (2000), Kevin Thomas (2001), Lanier Gothie (2002), and Jamil Northcutt (2003), Eric Oliver (2004), and Kelvin Robinson (2005).

Most material for this tribute was taken from A Dixie Farewell: The Life and Death of Chucky Mullins by Larry Woody. OMSN is interested in documenting material on the Internet about Chucky Mullins' life and tragic death. If you have any material you would like to either donate or loan to OMSN, such as photographs, to include programs and media guides, that contain information about Chucky, please contact OMSN by clicking here.

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