Defensive end Austrian Robinson will take the field wearing Mullins’ number as recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.
Written by Ginny McCarley | Photo provided by Ole Miss Athletics
More than a quarter century has passed since Chucky Mullins’ tragic injury and untimely death, but his legacy of courage and tenacity lives on in the annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award.
This year, senior defensive end Austrian Robinson was named the 2019 winner during the university’s annual spring football awards, making him the 29th recipient in the 30-year history of the award. At a press conference following the announcement, Robinson told a crowd how surprised and delighted he was to be chosen and how inspired he was by Mullins’ life.
“It means everything to me, knowing everything that Chucky had going on, to be able to wear the number,” Robinson said. “I’m not from Mississippi, and I didn’t think I was going to get the award. But it’s an honor. It’s a real honor.”
A member of the 2015 signing class and a native of New York City, Robinson was redshirted his first year and played five games as a freshman in the 2016 season. In his career with Ole Miss, Robinson has played in 26 games, has 52 career tackles, and has 5.5 tackles for loss.
The Chucky Mullins Courage Award is presented each spring to a defensive player, chosen by Rebel coaching staff, who “embodies the spirit of Mullins: courage, leadership, perseverance and determination,” according to a press release from the university.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said Robinson’s hard work and dedication to the team made him an easy top pick for the award.
“When we sat down to make that decision, he was the one guy that everybody on the team respects,” Luke said. “He has that lunch-pail mentality and blue-collar work ethic. He is just a solid guy, and everybody respects the heck out of him. He embodies everything that fits into the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.”
Each award recipient receives a framed Mullins jersey and wears Mullins’ number, 38, for the following season. It’s one of only two retired numbers for the Rebels, along with Archie Manning’s number, 18. No. 38 is only worn by the Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner.
Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins was born July 8, 1969, in Russellville, Alabama. Mullins’ mother died when he was just in seventh grade, but Mullins went on to achieve great success as a star football player at Russellville High School, earning All-Conference, All-Area and All-State honors as a junior and senior. He was named team captain and most valuable player, earning three letters in football, basketball and baseball.
Coaches at Ole Miss noticed his athletic and leadership abilities, and Mullins was awarded a four-year scholarship to Ole Miss in 1988. He was redshirted his freshman year, but emerged as a star defensive player during the next season.
Tragically, on Oct. 28, 1989, Mullins shattered four vertebrae in his spine and was paralyzed from the neck down during a homecoming game while making a tackle from behind on Vanderbilt’s Brad Gaines.
Despite enduring months of hospitalization and requiring grueling rehabilitation, Mullins’ grace, determination and positivity in the face of such a devastating loss resonated around the world. More than a million dollars was raised for the Chucky Mullins Trust fund, and he was visited by celebrities including Walter Payton, Janet Jackson and President George Bush.
Mullins continued to persevere, returning to Oxford in August of 1990 determined to complete his degree. However, just a few months after beginning classes in January of 1991, Mullins suddenly stopped breathing as he prepared for class. He died five days later from complications resulting from a blood clot.
Though Mullins’ life was short, the immeasurable impact he had on the community can be seen and felt throughout Oxford. In 2014, university officials made the decision to change the name of Coliseum Drive to Chucky Mullins Drive in his memory. He was inducted posthumously into the M-Club Hall of Fame, and his legacy continues to be acknowledged in a number of ways, including the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.
For Robinson, who wants to go on to coach football after graduation, winning the Chucky Mullins Courage Award is an honor that shows that his dedication to the team is appreciated.
“It’s amazing (receiving the award), just knowing that my hard work has paid off,” Robinson said. “I’ve learned a lot about being a leader, and knowing that there are a lot of people watching really inspires me to play good.”
More Rebel Award Recipients
The following awards were also presented to members of the 2019-2020 team.
The Eli Manning Award – Tylan Knight
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 – Charles Wiley
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 – Alex Givens
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.
Park Stevens Memorial Scholarship – Luke Logan
This award is presented annually to the top walk-on of the spring.
The John Howard Vaught Award of Excellence – Javon Patterson
Presented to a graduating senior athlete. Qualifications are dedication, scholastic ability, morale and performance.
Birmingham Alumni Club's annual Leadership Award – Zedrick Woods
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 – Sean Rawlings
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.