Chucky Mullins' number 38 to be retired

Chucky Mullins' No. 38 will be retired marking only the second time in history for an Ole Miss football number to be retired. Archie Manning's No. 18 was retired in 1986, some 15 years after he last played football for Ole Miss. It's been 15 years since Chucky's death in 1991.

In Ole Miss' storied 111-year football history ­ which has produced a share of three national championships, six Southeastern Conference titles, 31 bowl teams, 42 first-team All-Americans and sent over 200 players into the professional ranks ­ there has been only one player number ever retired.

That's about to change as the University of Mississippi is preparing to grant the ultimate honor to another former football player.

To expand and insure the continuing legacy of the late Chucky Mullins, Ole Miss Athletics Director Pete Boone announced Monday that the University will retire Mullins' No. 38 football jersey during pregame ceremonies Sunday afternoon, Sept. 3, when the Rebels open the 2006 season here against the University of Memphis in a game to be nationally televised by ESPN.

"The Ole Miss M-Club Alumni passed a resolution recommending the permanent retirement of Chucky's No. 38," Boone said. "We are honored and pleased to do this.

"There are only a few people in this world that have the courage and competitive spirit to overcome the unbelievable obstacles Chucky faced," Boone said in announcing the decision to retire No. 38. "His legacy reaches beyond the football field and deserves to be memorialized as such. For 16 years we have remembered the contributions and standards of Chucky Mullins through passing on his number to an outstanding defensive player who lives his life by those same standards.

"It was decided that the ultimate way to honor Chucky Mullins and his legacy is the retiring of his No. 38 alongside Archie Manning's No. 18, which was retired in 1986. These two men have set a standard for everyone who ever walked through the Grove or wore the Ole Miss colors."

Carver and Karen Phillips, who became Chucky's legal guardians when he was in the seventh grade, are scheduled to participate in the pregame ceremony along with others who were closely associated with Chucky.

"It's a blessing," Carver Phillips said when notified about the upcoming retirement of Chucky's number. "This is an amazing honor for Chucky, and our family is very excited about it. I thought it would happen sooner or later. It's going to be a great day for our family, and we look forward to representing and supporting Chucky."

Mullins, who was redshirted as a freshman in 1988, had his career come to a tragic end on Oct. 28, 1989 when he broke his neck while making a tackle against Vanderbilt, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. For months after the accident, Chucky endured the grueling challenges of rehabilitation, and his gritty "never quit" determination and positive spirit touched the lives of hundreds of people. The University raised more than a million dollars for the Chucky Mullins Trust Fund.

When Chucky returned to Oxford in August of 1990, he announced his determination to return to Ole Miss and pursue a degree. Against all odds, in January of 1991 he did return to the classroom. However, on May 1, 1991, as he prepared for class, he suddenly stopped breathing and then passed away on May 6, due to complications resulting from a blood clot.

The decision to retire Mullins' No. 38 has its roots all the way back to his injury in 1989, and the possibility of retiring his number has repeatedly been discussed down through the years.

"We just think the timing is right to permanently retire the number," said Andy Kilpatrick, president of the M-Club Chapter of the University of Mississippi Alumni Association. "Chucky displayed unparalleled spirit and extraordinary courage and determination in conquering the challenges facing him which, following his death, resulted in the establishment of the Roy Lee "Chucky" Mullins Courage Award. Retiring his number will forever preserve and honor his indomitable sprit. It's the right thing to do."

Since 1990, the Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner has been selected each spring, given to a senior defensive player. The winning player has worn Mullins' No. 38 the following season. Previous winners, beginning in 1990, include Chris Mitchell, Jeff Carter, Trea Southerland, Johnny Dixon, Alundis Brice, Michael Lowery, Derek Jones, Nate Wayne, Gary Thigpen, Ronnie Heard, Anthony Magee, Kevin Thomas, Lanier Goethie, Jamil Northcutt, Eric Oliver and Kelvin Robinson.

All-America linebacker Patrick Willis was selected as the 2006 honoree, which was announced during the 17th annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award Banquet last April.

Since the number is being retired, plans call for Willis to wear a 38 patch on the front of his jersey in honor of Mullins. Manning's No. 18 and Mullins' No. 38 will also be prominently displayed inside Vaught-Hemingway Staduim/Hollingsworth Field.

"From what I have learned about him, Chucky was what every athlete should strive to be and the type person every parent would want," Willis said. "I will wear the No. 38 patch with pride and do my best in honoring his memory and the courage he displayed."

Willis battled through his All-America junior season in 2005 by continuing to play with a broken middle finger on his right hand, a sprained left knee, a right mid-foot injury and a partial AC joint separation of his right shoulder. He finished the season as the nation's leader in solo tackles (9.00) and ranked No. 6 in the nation in total tackles (12.80). He also led the Southeastern Conference in tackles (12.8).

The Chucky Mullins Courage Award was initiated by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the annual banquet is sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and Pi Beta Phi sorority.

As for the future of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award Banquet, Dr. Thomas Wallace, vice chancellor for student life at Ole Miss, believes the retiring of Mullins' number will only enhance the success of the banquet.

"The significance of Chucky's contribution and the Ole Miss tradition and honor will live on in the retirement of his number," Dr. Wallace said. "The Chucky Mullins Courage Award banquet will still be held annually, with the winner of the award being announced on that night. Proceeds from the banquet will still be used to assist Ole Miss students who are involved in serious accidents."

Another part of the Chucky Mullins Legacy involves the bronze bust of his likeness which is a major item in his trophy case housed in Hollingsworth-Manning Hall, located in the Michael S. Starnes Athletics Training Center.

For a number of years, the bust has been removed from the trophy case on game day and taken to the Ole Miss locker room, a tradition which began when Chucky's former teammates were still members of the Rebel squad. Plans call for the bust to be placed on a platform to be located in the southwest corner of Hollingsworth Field where the Rebels exit the tunnel leading from the locker room to the field.

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