Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chucky Mullins: A true hero

      Chucky Mullins is a very big inspiration in my life. Before I was injured I really admired him and his story had a special place in my heart. I watched a documentary of his life and was brought to tears. After I was paralyzed I wanted to watch the documentary again. I had a complete different admiration for this man and thinking of him lifts my spirits. I have attended the Chucky Mullins courage award banquets ever since my injury. I've recently had people ask me who he was. I knew then that I must tell his story to every single person that I could reach. I'm going to put my heart and soul into this blog entry. I dedicate this to every family that paralysis has touched. This is the story of Chucky Mullins.

Chucky Mullins was born on July 8, 1969 in Russellville, Al. It is a very small town in northwest Alabama. His life started out with adversity at a very young age. His father left soon after he was born and he never got a chance to meet him. You would think that would be hard enough for a kid to deal with while he was growing up. But he still had his mother. Single moms are tremendous women that have to take on a greater role. I'm sure that Chucky became very close with his mother. I'm sure he had no idea what would happen to him next. Unfortunately for Chucky his mother passed away when he was 12 years old. The only family he had left in town was his brother. I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like and especially at a young age. He still had a great attitude and was determined not to give up at his early age. Chucky took it upon himself to overcome the situation and not to let it stop him. He actually went to his coach Carver Phillips and ask if he could live with him and his wife Karen. Mr. Phillips worked at the recreation center and had befriended Chucky. Even though they had two children of their own he quickly worked out the paperwork to become his legal guardian and they also took in his brother.

Chucky was always a smaller guy but put his heart into everything he did. He excelled in football as a defensive back with his hometown Tigers. His coach sent his video out to several different colleges. Chucky had heard of Billy Brewer and had decided he wanted to play for him at Ole Miss. Coach Brewer was undecided on whether to give him a scholarship. He told this story at this year's banquet of his recruitment. He said that he had a visit with Chucky in his office. He stated he told him he was full and had no more scholarships. He said he put his elbows up to his desk and told him not to pass up on him. Coach Brewer said no other player had ever done this. "But Chucky looked me right in the eye and kept telling me that if we gave him a scholarship, he would earn it, and that we wouldn't be sorry. He told me he'd do anything I'd ask, and he'd work hard to get bigger, stronger and faster." Coach Brewer ended up giving him the scholarship and stated he never regretted it.

Trea Southerland was his roommate as a freshman as they both started out at Ole Miss. He said that they immediately clicked. He described him as a person that you just want to be around and he made you feel better. He said that Chucky only had one small bag of clothes and a few other things. He said he didn't even have sheets to go over his mattress in the dorm. He stated he slipped off with another teammate and bought him some new sheets for his bed. He said that whenever Chucky found his bed he wanted to know who did it and jokingly stated he was going to get them.

I can remember on his documentary that all of his teammates loved him. I specifically remember one player that was on offense that said he would hit you just as hard in practice as he did during a game. He said, you just could not be mad at him even after he hit you. He said he would help you up and smiling real big tell you Chucky loves you man. The player said he just knew he was giving his all with everything he did. Just all the stories about his life just has to make you admire him that much more for never letting anything get to him. It also shows you how hard he worked every single day of his life. He did everything at full speed. He was truly respected and loved by everyone on the team. He was a true leader!               

This is a famous picture of Chucky Mullins standing next to Coach Billy Brewer leading the team out for the homecoming game against Vanderbilt on October 28, 1989. This would be Chucky's last game of his career. Coach Brewer stated at this past courage award banquet that this was the first time while he was at Ole Miss that someone took a picture of the team running onto the field. To me, there is something special and even unexplainable about this picture on this particular day. It was very early in the game that his catastrophic injury occurred. Vanderbilt was driving to the end zone during the first half of the game. The quarterback threw a pass over the middle to fullback Brad Gaines who caught the ball at the 2 yard line and could have easily scored. But he was immediately hit in the back by Chucky Mullins and the ball was jarred loose. The pass was ruled incomplete. The crowd was immediately silent after the big play. Chucky Mullins lay lifeless on the football field. While making the tackle on the fullback who weighed 50 more pounds he completely crushed four of his vertebrae in his cervical spine. I believe that he crushed C3 to C6. This is a very high spinal cord injury and one of the worst. He went straight to the Baptist Hospital in Oxford and was transported to Memphis. He would be paralyzed from the neck down.

"After he got hurt, all Chucky could move were his lips and his eyes, but they were always smiling. He never asked why me? He was a positive influence on everyone he encountered. He kept fighting. He wanted to live.”, Said Coach Brewer. Chucky would stay in a Memphis hospital until later that year. Ole Miss ended up playing in the Liberty Bowl which is played in Memphis. They pulled some strings and was able to get him to the game in an ambulance to talk to the players during pregame. The motto for the year was Its Time! Coach Brewer leaned over to Chucky and asked him if he had any words for the team and he softly whispered to him It's Time! If you watch the video it will send chills down your spine. It is just such an amazing moment. I'm not sure any other pregame speech could top it. The whole team started chanting It's Time!   
This picture captures that moment, and you can even see him smiling. Ole Miss easily defeated Air Force in the liberty bowl that night.

Chucky was moved to the University of Alabama Birmingham to the Spain Center to finish his rehab. Ole Miss raised over $1 million to help support him and all his medical bills. The city of Oxford donated land close to campus and built a house for him. He never gave up his dreams. He eventually made it back to the practice fields to watch his former teammates play. He also started back school and wanted to become a football coach. He ended up completing a semester of school. Then one morning while getting ready for school Chucky passed out and was rushed to the hospital. He was never responsive after that moment. Chucky Mullins died on May 6, 1991 due to complications from his spinal cord injury. His story is filled with courage. He made it through every tragedy that occurred throughout his life with great character. So many people in his situation could have easily given up. Even early on in his life, but that was not him."I've never been a quitter. It's not in my heart to give up. I don't think it should be in anybody's heart. I may give out,, but I'll never give up." - Chucky Mullins.

I could not have said it better myself. I hope that now you have a better perspective about who Chucky Mullins really was. He wasn't just an average football player with a tragic ending to his life. He had a very high character and affected everyone around him throughout his life in a positive way. He never stopped smiling, even during the hardest times. I cried before my injury because of the sad story that I realized it was. After being paralyzed I looked at the story in a totally different light. I realized that he would not want anybody to cry for him. He only wanted to lift people up. I understand that a lot better now. He got to see the different perspective of life and how precious it is. No matter what your going through, if you stay positive and appreciate simply being alive then you can make it through anything. I see his story as beating the odds throughout everything until he passed away. Even that has not stopped him from being a great motivator today. I'm also at peace thinking about him running around right now, with a big smile on his face looking down on all of us. I could just see him saying "Never quit!"

Please take time to watch this video to see the other side of the story. It shows the effects that it had on Brad Gaines for the rest of his life. I have met Brad at the Chucky Mullins award banquet. He attends this every year. He is a very tremendous man.

A few extra quotes and notes that I was unable to fit into the story.

 I highly recommend that you purchase the documentary of Chucky Mullins. It is called Undefeated: the Chucky Mullins story. You can find it at 

What is Chucky Mullins legacy?

"Courage," Brewer says simply. "Chucky epitomized courage against all odds."

"We were from totally different backgrounds. We were brought together by a terrible tragedy, and we got to be close friends. Not a day goes by I don't think of him, several times a day. I still miss him. " -Brad Gaines

"Chucky's legacy? "Southerland, rhetorically. "Have you got three hours? Chucky taught me that it's not about where you come from, or what you have in your back pocket. It's about what you have in your heart. " - Trae Southerland

* The Chucky Mullins award banquet is held every year at the end of spring practice. It is given to a rising upcoming senior has great character and leadership.The winner of the award wears the 38 jersey the following football season.

A picture of the teams entryway into Vaught Hemingway Stadium with a bust of Chucky's head with his famous qoute.



  2. ok. now I know who he is. thats a blog i will never forget.Im sure I will think about this when Im having difficult situations. Very well written Kevin!!!

  3. Amazing job doll. It was well worth the wait. He had a spirit that was brighter than the sun :) a lot like someone else we know! He didn't quit and you aren't either.
    VERY touching Kev. Thank you :)

  4. I started at Ole Miss in 1988, the same year as Chucky Mullins. I was a student assistant with the athletic department and came to know Chucky. He was a heck of a nice guy. It was really tragic what happened to him. I never saw him after the accident, but I witnessed the entire Ole Miss community rise up in support of him. He was truly an inspiration to everyone.

  5. Thank you soooo much Chucky was my cousin and A GREAT PERSON, He is greatly missed. Thanks Ole Miss!!!!!!!You are forever loved

  6. I just saw It's Time and then found this blog. Your blog is well written and inspiration al. God bless you.