Community remembers Chucky Mullins
The Russellville High School Class of 1988 Chucky Mullins Scholarship Committee presented a day of activities Saturday in Mullins’ honor.
The Committee has remained dedicated to preserving the memory of Russellville’s legendary Mullins, who was injured while playing defensive back for Ole Miss during a tackle of Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines Oct. 29, 1989. The incident left him paralyzed from the neck down, and he lived until May 6, 1991.
Mullins is remembered not only for his love and skill for playing football but also for his highly positive and encouraging attitude and the great love and compassion he showed for others.
The Committee hosted its second annual football camp Saturday at the RHS football stadium, along with a Special Olympics event and field day at the Russellville Middle School gym.
Saturday evening, classmates and supporters gathered at Doe’s Eat Place in downtown Russellville to share memories of Mullins and talk about how they have been and continue to be inspired and encouraged by him and his legacy.
Almost 31 years since Mullins’ death, the strength of his story and brightness of the memories of those who love and remember him show no signs of fading. Friends and supporters continue to work to honor and preserve his memory and legacy while endeavoring to inspire others.
RHS coach Jermaine Groce said it’s good for students and the community to learn about and be inspired by Mullins’ life. “The impact he had was national, and his story might help inspire others to work to achieve their goals,” Groce said. “I love his quote, ‘Never quit,’ that became his motto after he was injured.”
Classmates and other supporters of Mullins are dedicated to making sure he isn’t forgotten.
“We do all this because we want to keep Chucky’s memory alive and give back to the community by providing positive opportunities for the kids, including scholarships,” explained Deedra Moore, one of the members of Mullins’ class.
His positive, encouraging nature and compassion are common recollections among those who knew him.
“You always saw Chucky with a smile on his face,” added Moore, “and he was always the same to everybody. When I went to see him after he was injured, despite what was going on with him, he made a special effort to make me feel good.
“We appreciate all the sponsors who help us keep everything going. The Russellville community really goes above and beyond to help. We started the scholarships in 2009, and we hope to see them continue to grow.”
Saturday’s football camp – one of many efforts over the years that has helped raise money for the scholarship fund – welcomed special guests Bo Scarborough from Alabama, Jamarca Sanford and Jerrell Powe from Ole Miss and Sammie Coates from Auburn.
It was another 1988 alum, Rosell Christian, who had the idea to add the Special Olympics component to the one-day camp.
“Last year we only had the football camp. This is the first year for the Special Olympics. We thought, what better way to honor Chucky than with the Special Olympics?” Christian said. “These kids always have big, beautiful smiles, and that’s one of the many things we remember about him.”
Fun, games and friendly competition were key components of the Special Olympics and field day.
“As the parent of a special-needs child participating, it means a lot that our community has come together to make this possible,” explained Jill Hester. “This event helps boost the self-esteem and confidence of the children while giving them a chance to be around their peers.”
It’s all about reminding the community about Mullins’ life and promoting his positivity and willingness to work hard for his dreams – a legacy Christian said she feels is a testament to the kind of person he was.
“Chucky had a really positive and encouraging attitude,” explained Christian. “Part of our logo says ‘Never Quit,’ and that is the mentality we have always known from him. He was dedicated and compassionate, and you see that in what we are doing here.
“There’s something different about our class,” added Christian. “Working on all of this is something we have collectively always wanted to do. We teach our kids about Chucky. It’s important to us for them to know about him. Some of the children of our classmates are now taking part in helping to keep Chucky’s memory and legacy going strong, and that’s something we’re extremely proud to see taking place.”
“My daughter, Skye Hamilton, has graciously stepped up to help us,” Christian added. “She has been great at organizing us and putting us all into areas where we are needed. We are so happy to have our own children being involved and eventually turning it over to them one day.”
Even people who never knew Mullins have been impacted by his life. Although RMS principal Tony Bonds, for example, didn’t know Mullins, Bonds said he has been and continues to be positively impacted by Mullins’ life. He, like Mullins, also played football at Ole Miss.
“Chucky’s story is incredibly encouraging, and the worst thing we could do would be to let his legacy and memory die,” Bonds said. “He was the underdog who overcame – someone everyone wanted to be around and be like.
“Chucky’s legacy is huge and continues to have a tremendous positive impact.”
Former head football coach Don Cox was one of several speakers at the remembrance dinner Saturday evening.
“In all the years I coached, Chucky never missed a practice. It’s unusual among players, but he actually liked practice,” Cox said. “He had no fear. He loved his teammates, and he hated to lose. Chucky had great courage and great confidence.”
Cox explained Mullins achieved the dream of his life when he was chosen to play college football. “I am incredibly proud of him, and I was thrilled Ole Miss wanted him,” Cox added. “Chucky, to me, was the American Dream. I’ll never forget his huge smile.”
Christian explained each person involved has been personally impacted by the memory of Mullins and his life.
“It’s important to us to continue to find ways to make sure we keep Chucky’s legacy flowing through Russellville, and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of strong community support,” Christian said. “We strive to make sure the kids going through Russellville continue to learn the impact he had and continues to have.
“Chucky’s spirit is so important to our community. He possessed a great determination and commitment. He has touched so many of us. We continue to pass the torch and are pleased to see our kids starting to step in help us in this.”