On Oct. 28, 1989, the game forever changed for the Ole Miss Rebels when Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins was paralyzed during homecoming from a hit on Bradley Gaines, a Vanderbilt running back, and that hit left lasting impacts on everyone involved with the University of Mississippi.
As Saturday’s Ole Miss matchup against Vanderbilt draws near, a game that has been a true SEC rivalry for the last 88 meetings, this weekend has more meaning for the Rebel family thinking back to that sunny homecoming day 25 years ago.
Though Mullins’ stature was small for an SEC defensive player, his drive and heart made up for his size. Mullins made the play on Gaines, keeping the Commodores out of the end zone. Though the hit on Gaines was successful to stop the play, the force of the impact broke Mullins’ neck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down after breaking four vertebrae in his back.
Two months later, the Rebels took on Air Force in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, and Mullins came to the stadium to see his teammates prior to kickoff. Coach Brewer asked him if their was anything he would like to say to the team, and he said “It’s time.”
The chant became a true rally cry for the team for the rest of the season and “it’s time” will forever be associated with Mullins. He continued to be a true ambassador for the university and the football team after his injury, and his former teammates always looked for him in the stands, supporting his Rebels.
The hit brought Gaines and Mullins together, and Gaines still visits Mullins’ grave in his hometown of Russville, Alabama, three times a year: the anniversary of the hit, the anniversary of Mullins’ death on May 6 and Christmas.
This Thursday, the SEC Network will present a special SEC Storied segment called “It’s Time,” a story about Mullins, at 7 p.m. CST. Here is a look at the trailer for the episode from ESPN and the SEC Network.
The Rebels still honor Mullins every year by picking a defensive captain who shows as much heart and passion as Mullins did both on and off the field, and that player wears No. 38 in his memory. Senior D.T. Shackleford has held the honor for the past two years.
When the Rebels take on the University of Memphis Tigers on Sept. 27, the team will honor Mullins by wearing special helmets, and the athletics department will attempt to recreate the moment after the detrimental hit when a bucket was passed around the stadium for donations for Mullins.
Adam Brown is sports editor for HottyToddy.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.