The fact that they made the change wasn’t a secret. It’d been known for quite some time. Friday afternoon made it official.
From Old Taylor Road to the south, through the old Whirlpool plant area and Thacker Mountain Rail Trail, across Highway 278/6 and onto the campus of the University of Mississippi. Past the Gillom and Tuohy Centers, on past the Khayat Law Center, all the way to Fraternity Row.
Most of the stories and recollections at the hour-long ceremony were similar to ones from the past, familiar reflections of the day Chucky was injured, his rehab and recovery period, his death, and the impact that period and the past 25 years have had on so many in this community and beyond.
Except for eloquent remarks made by Chucky Mullins Scholarship recipient Acacia Santos, and further remarks from Deterrian “D.T.” Shackelford of the Ole Miss football team, the only two-time recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award. Those were less familiar and more how a young person today would understand the story of Chucky Mullins.
Ross Bjork began the activities, and Dan Jones talked for a bit. After Acacia and D.T., Billy Brewer then spoke, followed by Carver Phillips, Chucky's guardian.
After that, there was the unveiling of a new marker that will be placed permanently just onto campus from Highway 278/6 on the side of the road by the Tuohy Center.
Friday's event was one of the highlights of the 2014 Racial Reconciliation Week at Ole Miss. Some of Chucky’s former teammates were there. Some of those who have worn his No. 38 since his injury were there.
U.S. Congressman Gregg Harper and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker attended, as well as other elected officials, both statewide and local. Former Chancellor Robert Khayat was there, as well as former ADs Pete Boone and Warner Alford. Brad Gaines, the former Vanderbilt player, sat in the front row with the former Rebel players.
Also there was the spirit of Chucky Mullins.
Because that is the reason some 25 years after he was injured in a homecoming game against Vanderbilt, passing away a year and a half later, that he is still remembered.
How he lived, how he survived, how he fought, and how he died. And the legacy he left.
Chucky Mullins would likely be most appreciative of all the attention he has garnered the past 25 years. He would likely smile and say “It’s not about me; it’s about helping somebody else. Everybody else.”
Students like Acacia and D.T. Those are the ones he likely would have been most proud of Friday.
For me, every time I attend a Chucky Mullins Courage Award ceremony or an event like this held in his honor and memory, I remain pleased that I was able to get to know him between the time of his injury and the time of his death. I recall those brief moments with respect and appreciation.
But so did everyone who met him during that time. And obviously those who had already met him in the days, months, and years prior.
He did always smile. I saw that. When I was sent to his house that Ole Miss had built to take a picture of him and some fraternity members who made a contribution to support his recovery, or that first Chucky Mullins Courage Award banquet that he actually was able to attend, he smiled.
Anytime anyone would see him in his wheelchair on campus as he tried to get back into as normal a life as possible as an Ole Miss student, to those times he would show up at football practice, or sit and watch the Rebels play a game from his wheelchair in the northwest corner of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Didn’t matter where you saw him, he was always the same. That much is true.
What is also true is that for a quarter century Chucky Mullins has been remembered, and for years to come that will be the case.
Because Ole Miss and this community, its people near and far, are making sure of that.
Exiting from Highway 278/6 and heading onto the campus on the road formerly known as Coliseum Drive all the way to the Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center where it ends at Fraternity Row is the latest addition to a legacy that will endure.
Chucky Mullins Drive
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