Ole Miss defensive lineman Marcus Tillman of McCall Creek, Miss., has been selected as the 20th recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which goes to a rising senior defensive player each year.
The award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away on May 6, 1991.
Tillman's selection was announced during Thursday night's Chucky Mullins Courage Award Banquet, which is sponsored each year by Phi Beta Sigma and Phi Kappa Psi fraternities. Tillman will be recognized Saturday afternoon when Ole Miss conducts its annual Grove Bowl spring football game, set for 1 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field.
For the first time, the finalists for the award were announced in advance, and the others included cornerback Marshay Green and safety Kendrick Lewis. In addition to the revealing of the winner, attendees saw video highlights of many former award winners offering their reflections on Chucky Mullins and the significance of the honor and also heard from Ole Miss Assistant Athletics Director Jamil Northcutt, representing the past recipients.
"All three of them could have very easily represented this award," said Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, who announced the winner at the banquet. "Since day one, Marcus doesn't miss a class, he doesn't miss a tutor session, he doesn't miss a weight workout. He does everything the right way, and he'll be a great representative of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award. I've been so proud of Marcus. He has been so consistent."
"It's another motivator to work harder and reach the goals that I have," Tillman said. "This is the highest honor I've received. I've had a lot of awards going back to high school, but this is at the top."
Tillman, who wears No. 92, will have the honor of wearing a "38" patch on his jersey during his senior campaign. Mullins wore No. 38 as a player at Ole Miss.
A three-year letterman, Tillman will enter his senior season with 89 total tackles, including 54 solo hits. He also has 15.5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries and two pass break-ups. During his three years with the Rebels, he has played in 37 games, staring 36.
Tillman earned first-team Freshman All-America honors in 2006, when he finished tied for second on the team with 5.0 TFLs and third with 2.0 QB sacks.
Tillman joins 19 former Ole Miss Rebels to receive the Chucky Mullins Courage Award. They include Chris Mitchell, Jeff Carter, Trea Southerland, Johnny Dixon, Alundis Brice, Michael Lowery, Derek Jones, Nate Wayne, Gary Thigpen, Ronnie Heard, Anthony Magee, Kevin Thomas, Lanier Goethie, Jamil Northcutt, Eric Oliver, Kelvin Robinson, Patrick Willis, Jeremy Garrett and Jamarca Sanford.