Ole Miss handed out its annual spring football awards Saturday, headlined by senior defensive back Mike Hilton being named the 2015 Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner.
A native of Fayetteville, Georgia, Hilton became the 25th recipient in the 26-year history of the award when it was revealed at Saturday’s breakfast ceremony, presented by the M-Club, prior to the Regions Bank Grove Bowl.
Hilton will wear Mullins’ No. 38 jersey throughout the 2015 season.
The award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991.
Hilton was selected from among several veteran defensive players by head coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebel coaching staff. The award is presented annually to an Ole Miss upperclassman defensive player that embodies the spirit of Mullins – courage, leadership, perseverance and determination.
“This is the highest honor you can receive as an Ole Miss football player,” Freeze said. “We had so many deserving candidates and it was very difficult choice, but it’s our honor to recognize Mike Hilton as this year’s winner.
“I almost did not sign him; I almost messed it up,” Freeze added. “He had academic issues and he was undersized, but Matt Luke said there was no question who was the alpha dog on this (high school) team.”
In his three-year Rebel career, Hilton has started at least one game at every defensive backfield position. His willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team is evident again this spring, as he has made a switch to Rover after starting 11 games at cornerback last season. It was from his corner spot that he led the team with 71 tackles last year, and he is poised to become one of a few players in school history to play in four straight bowl games.
“I’m thankful for the coaches for giving me the opportunity to do what I do, on the field and off the field,” Hilton said. “I’m trying to live up to what (Mullins) has done. I want to be the best I can in memory of him.”
Former Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipients are 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, Kelvin Robinson, Patrick Willis, Jeremy Garrett, Jamarca Sanford, Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett, Deterrian Shackelford (twice), Jason Jones and Mike Marry.
The Rebel coaching staff handed out a number of other awards during the Regions Bank Grove Bowl festivities, as listed below.
The Eli Manning Award – Jordan Sims
Presented to the most improved offensive football player based on spring practice performance in the area of spirit, leadership, hustle, determination and dependability.
The Jeff Hamm Memorial Award – C.J. Hampton
Presented to the most improved defensive football player based on spring practice performance in the areas of spirit, leadership, hustle, determination and dependability.
The J. Richard Price Courage and Compassion Award – Fadol Brown
This award is presented annually to the upperclassman lineman who, in the opinion of his coaches, has demonstrated extraordinary courage and unusual compassion in his dedication to his team and to Ole Miss.
The John Howard Vaught Award of Excellence – Cody Prewitt
Presented to a graduating senior athlete. Qualifications are dedication, scholastic ability, morale and performance.
Birmingham Alumni Club’s annual Leadership Award – Bo Wallace
This award is a portrait awarded in recognition of a graduating senior football player for his leadership qualities both on and off the field.
Clower-Walters Scholarship – Senquez Golson
Established in 1974 by Jerry Clower to honor Carl Walters, a veteran Mississippi sportswriter. A plaque will be awarded to an outstanding graduating senior Ole Miss football player as selected by the coaching staff and a scholarship will be awarded in the name of the player selected.
Park Stevens Memorial Scholarship – Tayler Polk
This award is presented annually to the top walk-on of the spring.