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Subject: ARCHIVE: May 6, 1991 ~The forgotten story of Chucky Mullins, American football player at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), whose promising career was shattered when on October 28, 1989, plunged head-first into a tackle of Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines, the impact shattering 4 vertebrae in Mullins' cervical spine, immediately paralyzing him. He died 18 months later. He was only 21. ...
Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins
(July 8, 1969 in Russellville, Alabama
May 6, 1991 in Memphis, Tennessee)
...American football player at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi)
best known for the devastating football injury that left him a quadriplegic.
Accident and aftermath
Chucky Mullins was injured on October 28, 1989, during the Ole Miss Rebels Homecoming game against the Vanderbilt Commodores in Oxford, Mississippi. Chucky Mullins plunged head-first into a tackle of Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines after a short pass attempt. The impact shattered four vertebrae in his cervical spine, immediately paralyzing him.
After being airlifted to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Mullins underwent a tracheotomy and five-hour bone graft operation to fuse the vertebrae. Mullins never regained sensation below his neck; shortly before his death, however, he was able to move a hand across his body and touch his chest.
As soon as the injury occurred, Mullins became the recipient of a huge outpouring of community support. Ole Miss fans, college football fans in the South and people from all over the nation immediately began to donate money towards Mullins' growing medical expenses. President George H.W. Bush visited Mullins in his hospital room and encouraged him while on a visit to Memphis. Soon, Ole Miss established the "Chucky Mullins Trust Fund" to properly manage the donations. The city of Oxford donated land for a specially-designed, handicap-accessible house for Mullins. Donations to the trust fund eventually exceeded $1 million. Mullins returned to Ole Miss on June 20, 1990 to complete his undergraduate studies.
Less than a year after returning to school, Mullins was stricken by a pulmonary embolism, caused by blood clots formed by inactivity and poor circulation. He died in the hospital on May 6, 1991 and was buried in his home town of Russellville, Alabama.
Brad Gaines visits Mullins' grave three times a year
During Mullins' time in the hospital, he and Gaines, who did not know each other before the accident, became close friends. Since Mullins' death, Gaines visits and maintains his friend's gravesite three times a year: May 6 (the anniversary of Mullins' death), October 28 (the anniversary of the injury) and December 25 (Christmas Day). Brad Gaines continues this personal tradition to this day.
The impact of the accident on Gaines, and the injury to Mullins, is the subject of a SEC Storied documentary "It's Time", which first aired on September 2014 on the SEC Network.
Each spring, during the annual Grove Bowl (a game at the end
of spring practices pitting Ole Miss players against each other),
the player who most embodies Chucky Mullins' spirit and courage
receives the "Chucky Mullins Memorial Courage Award".
...With the award, the player received the right to wear jersey number 38, the same number Chucky wore. Chucky's number 38 was retired on September 3, 2006 in a pregame ceremony before the Rebels' victory over Memphis. From 2006 until 2009, the winner of the "Chucky Mullins Memorial Courage Award" wore a patch in honor of this award. This was an unpopular move, and after changes to the award (any player is eligible, no longer just a rising senior defensive player), the number was returned to circulation in 2010, exclusively worn by the award winner.
...The bust of Mullins at the end of the tunnel where the Rebels make their entrance before games with the quote "Never Quit" inscribed on the plaque below and its tradition for players and coaches to rub his head as they run onto the field. Defensive players who win an award named for Mullins wear his No. 38 throughout the season and Gaines attends a banquet on campus every year when the award is presented.