Senior linebacker Mike Marry became the 24th recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award this past Saturday, and he will have the honor of wearing Mullins’ No. 38 next fall.
They were playing Southeasten Conference foe Vanderbilt.
At the time, Chucky Mullins was emerging as a young defensive player for Ole Miss, and after redshirting his freshman year, he began to see significant time the next season. However, that season would be his last.
In that homecoming game against Vanderbilt, Mullins was tragically injured when he attempted to tackle Commodore fullback Brad Gaines.
The hit paralyzed Mullins and ended his football career.
In 1991, the Ole Miss family lost Mullins when he passed away from complications resulting from a blood clot, but his legacy was never forgotten.
Fast forward 22 years to the present, and for the 24th time an Ole Miss player received the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which results in him having the honor of wearing Mullins’ No. 38 for a full season.
This year’s winner was senior linebacker Mike Marry.
“It is a great honor to be a part of this tradition,” Marry said after receiving the award.
“It comes with a lot of responsibilities, but I believe the coaches feel like I can handle it, and I’m glad they chose me.”
The award is given every year to an upperclassman player on the defensive side of the ball that the coaching staff feels carries on what Mullins brought to Ole Miss, things like leadership, courage and perseverance.
“The guy (Marry) understands how to be the best teammate on the field and off the field,” head coach Hugh Freeze said.
“He not only plays with great energy and passion, but he understands that building a team and being a leader on the team also requires you to make the proper decisions off the field. He does that very well and expects to hold others to the same standards. Whoever wears 38 has to understand that, and he gets it very clearly.”
Ole Miss doesn’t honor Mullins just by awarding the No. 38.
When the Rebels run out of the tunnel to take the field before every game, each player touches a bust of Mullins, which guarantees that his legacy endures and leaves a message for players and fans alike to “never quit,” as quoted on the statue.
“That’s what gets you going for every game,” Marry said.
“As I learned about his story and what he went through and how much adversity, when you touch his head, you have to go out and give it your all and do your best. Not only for the university but for him.”
Mullins’ legacy has had a huge impact on the Ole Miss family and community, but one man still thinks about that day in 1989 every day and will never be able to forget it. That man is Brad Gaines.
“It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep,” Gaines said.
“I think about it all the time during the day, not only because of the profound effect it had on me but the effect it had on everybody here today, the university, the alumni, the state of Mississippi.”
Gaines said he visits Mullins’ grave three times a year: the day of the accident, the day Mullins passed away and Christmas.
Gaines also makes it a priority to attend the presentation of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award every year.
“What is neat is that every coach who has been here realizes how important it is,” Gaines said.
“It has a mystique about it. It is neat to try to strive and win that number because they are going to be talking about it.”
As time progresses, coaches, players and fans alike hope to continue to keep the tradition alive and the spirit of Mullins thriving in the Ole Miss community.
“It certainly is (important) to me and to a lot of other people (to keep the tradition going),” Freeze said.
“There was a good crowd here, and I think it was a good move by our administration to move this to Saturday morning where more people are in town because this award deserves that. It deserves that attention. Certainly, Chucky and the award winners deserve every bit of recognition they can get.”
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