A New No. 38

Some things never seem to change. For Brad Gaines, they never will. Once again he made the journey from Nashville to Oxford for the Chucky Mullins Courage Award presentation, awarded Saturday morning to Rebel senior linebacker Mike Marry.

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"Chucky, the accident and our relationship, and I've said this many times," said Gaines, who was the Vanderbilt player on the receiving end of the hit that paralyzed Mullins on Homecoming Day 1989, October 28, in Oxford and ultimately led to his untimely death a year and a half later on May 6, 1991. "It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep. Not to mention, I think about it all during the day because of the profound effect that it had on me and the effect it had on everybody here today.

"And not just here at the University," said Gaines, a husband and father of four, "but the alumni, the state of Mississippi, the South, and for that matter the country, the impact that he had, and the impact it has had on me personally."

Now attention turns to Marry, whose family made the trek from Florida to be a part of the weekend's activities, which included a special moment about 9:30 a.m. Saturday when his name was added to a long and impressive list of Ole Miss Rebels who've been so honored in the years before.

Mike Marry
Joshua McCoy

"It's a great honor to be a part of this tradition," said Marry, with three years' experience in college football and an understanding of what the recognition he received means. "Only one person a year gets selected. Not many people get this chance. Coming with it is a lot of responsibility. I feel like the coaches believe I can handle them, so I'm glad they chose me."

"The guy understands how to be the best teammate off the field and on the field," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. "Not only does he play with great energy and passion, he understands being a leader of the team requires you to make decisions off the field, whether academically or social. He does that very well and expects to hold others to that same standard. Whoever wears that No. 38 has to understand that, and he gets it very clearly."

Marry said those before him who have worn No. 38 had an impact on him that he hopes to have on others.

"Jason Jones and D.T. Shackelford, they are outstanding people who always do everything right," Marry said. "I just hope I can be the same type leader they are."

Marry said touching the bust of Mullins as the team runs out the tunnel for games is a moment he always cherishes. And now, he will even more.

"That's what gets me going for every game, learning about his story and what he went through and how much he meant to this university," Marry said. "When you touch his head, you know you have to come out and give it your all, not only for the University but also for him."

Mike Marry
Joshua McCoy

"I'm just so proud of him," said linebackers coach Tom Allen of Marry. "In our meetings, his name just kept coming up. I believe he embodies the spirit of the award. He has a great heart for people, and he loves his teammates. I think that's what Chucky was all about. He's got a passion for the game. He leads with a quiet demeanor, but he's our leader. There's no doubt about it. He embodies the spirit of Ole Miss football."

Gaines and Mullins became friends after the event on Homecoming 1989 and until Chucky's death. Gaines visits Mullins' grave in Russellville, Ala., three times every year – May 6, October 28, and December 25.

"Because when I go down there on Christmas, he's a family member to me," Gaines said.

Marry said he begins now being the best he can be as the latest player to wear No. 38 on the football field for Ole Miss.

"It's going to make me go even harder and make sure I do all the little things right," he said, "because I know there are more eyes on me now."

Including those of Brad Gaines, who has watched every No. 38 since 1989 and will for as long as he lives.

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