I have been an Ole Miss fan for as long as I can remember and I always wanted to, somehow, be a part of Rebel athletics. I had dreams of one day suiting up for the red and blue and playing for the team I had followed since childhood.
I felt I was a pretty good athlete in high school, and even received a visit from former Rebel head basketball coach Ed Murphy in 1987 while playing hoops for Jim Hill High in Jackson about possibly one day joining the Rebel basketball team.
Then in the following year my hopes of playing for the Rebs came to a sudden and tragic halt as I was in an automobile accident while traveling with a friend in east Alabama, which left me paralyzed breaking the fifth and sixth vertebrae in my neck.
After going through six months of rigorous rehabilitation in Jackson I moved to Clay County, Alabama to live with my mom and try to get my new life back together. I continued to follow the Rebels’ athletic programs religiously and wondered if I could still somehow be a part of the school I loved.
As I pondered on how I could be a part of Ole Miss a million thoughts went through my mind.
Could I make it in school in my condition? And if I could, could I do it 300 miles away from my mother, who helped me work my way to what independence I had? Was it worth it?
All of these questions seemed to have negative answers to them, so I had pretty much decided to get an education close to home.
Then while listening to the 1989 homecoming game against Vanderbilt, one of the Rebel players made a hit on a Commodore receiver, breaking up a pass to thwart a Commodore scoring drive. It was a big play for the Rebs, but something was terribly wrong with the play. The player who made the hit on Vandy's tight end was down and lay motionless on the turf. The player was number 38, Roy Lee "Chucky" Mulllins.
I began to turn through the Rebel media guide to read up on Mullins. He was a 6- foot 180- pound red-shirt freshman defensive back from Russelville, Alabama.
The profile on Mullins was he needed to get stronger and develop better foot speed. He was listed as the third-string left corner back for the Rebels, but had obviously worked hard in fall drills because he had battled his way into the Rebs five-man defensive backfield rotation, as he was contributing in the Rebels’ nickel package. Mullins looked as if his future was going to be bright as a Rebel football player.
I tuned back to the radio to find out more on his condition and the news was not good. He had still not moved and a stretcher had been called to take him off the field. I listened to the rest of the game which the Rebels won 20-13.
After the game, there was speculation as to the extent of Mullins' injury, but I never found out more on his condition as the radio station that I was listening to out of Birmingham switched over to local programming.
The next morning I was watching an NFL pregame show on CBS and they showed the clip of the play in which Mullins was injured. Broadcaster Brent Musberger then gave the heartbreaking news of his condition. He had shattered several vertebrae in his neck and was paralyzed and hope of recovery was slim.
I knew what the fallen Rebel was going through, and what a tough road he had ahead of him. I wanted to get in touch with him and see if I could offer any encouragement. I found out that he was being transferred to Spain Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham. I got in touch with Chucky's guardian, Carver Phillips, and we set up a time for me to meet with him.
As my mom and I drove to Birmingham I was really unsure about what I would say to Mullins. I knew nothing about him personally, all I knew was he is a Rebel who was facing a major change in how he would live each day. I wanted to let him know he could still make a good life for himself, but some people just don't want to hear it, they just want to be left alone. So needless to say I was extremely nervous about meeting him.
As I went up to the third floor of the building where Chucky was doing some physical therapy my nervousness increased. As the elevator door opened I collected myself and went on in to talk with him. To my surprise when I went up to Chucky he greeted me with a smile and said in a weak, but sturdy voice, "What's up, man? Glad you could come." With that, all of the nervous feelings I had just seconds ago were gone and my new found friend and I were engaged in a conversation about everything imaginable. As we kept talking I knew this guy had his head on straight and he needed no encouraging speech, but he had one for me.
He could tell by our chat that I loved Ole Miss and he asked “why don't you apply and go to school in Oxford?”
"You think it would work?" I asked. "Man, yes. You can do it," he replied. "Come on and give it a shot, you'll be glad you did."
After shooting the bull for about an hour or so his therapists said he needed to get back to work so my mom and I headed back home. During the drive home I thought about what Chucky and I had discussed and I looked at my mom and said, "I went to see Chucky to see what I could do to boast his spirits and he ended up boosting mine." My mom looked back at me and replied, "Yeah he's a good guy, I think ya'll would've talked all day if we would have let you."
I had never met a guy like Chucky. It was like he had an inner and outer glow that I had never seen from anyone. I continued to talk to him on the phone periodically and he was looking forward to getting back to Oxford and getting back into school and joining his teammates. He would always ask if I had given any more thought to going to Ole Miss. He had me thinking and my negative thoughts that I had were being pushed to the back of my mind.
Chucky and I went to the 1990 season finale against Mississippi State and enjoyed watching the Rebs run their record to 9-2 with a 21-11 victory over the ‘Dogs. As we talked during the game I told Chucky that I had decided to give school a try and let him know that I was scheduled to begin classes in the upcoming spring at Ole Miss. He let me know that he was glad I made that decision and he again guaranteed me I had made a good decision. I was looking forward to it, and so was Chucky as we would get more chances to see one another and work our way through the books together. Unfortunately, that would be the last time I would talk to Chucky as I got a phone call from Devin White, a friend of Chucky's, and he told me that Chucky had developed some complications and had stopped breathing.
I was getting ready to head to Oxford the next day to check on Chucky's condition, but it was too late he had already passed on. Needless to say I was devastated. I had lost a very special friend and the world had lost a very special person.
I put off going to school and was unsure if I would go to Oxford now.. Then I asked myself, "What would three-eight do?" I didn't have to think long on that question. He would go for it as he always did. Well, I went for it as well—and I couldn't be happier.
I am now a senior and plan to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. These have been the best four years of my life. Ole Miss is a portrait of class and I would not want to be anywhere else on God's green earth, but if it wasn't for Chucky I may have never came here. So I thank the good Lord above for creating people like # 38. He epitomizes the word “class.”
If there were more people like Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins the world would be a much better place.
I'll never forget you, 38, and neither will Ole Miss.