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Ole Miss will retire Mullins’ jersey number

The University of Mississippi is retiring the football jersey of the late Chucky Mullins.

Mullins was paralyzed from the neck down during a game in 1989 and died two years later.

Since 1990, jersey No. 38 has been worn annually by Ole Miss’ most outstanding senior defensive player to honor Mullins.

The university said Monday that Mullins becomes just the second player in school history to have his jersey retired.

Former quarterback Archie Manning’s No. 18 jersey was retired in 1986.

“There’s nobody who has given any more to the university than Chucky did, so how can you really honor this young man?” said Andy Kilpatrick, president of the M-Club, an athletic branch of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “Having your jersey retired, that’s the athletic equivalent of the quest for the Holy Grail.”

The retirement ceremony will take place during a pregame ceremony before Ole Miss’ season opener against Memphis on Sept. 3. The jersey will appear next to Manning’s in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Kilpatrick said the possibility of pulling the number off the field had been discussed several times the past 16 years after the Chucky Mullins Courage Award was established in 1990.

Carver Phillips, who with his wife Karen became Mullins’ legal guardians, said in a statement released by the university that “it’s a blessing. This is an amazing honor for Chucky, and our family is very excited about it.”

Thomas Wallace, Ole Miss vice chancellor for student life who coordinates the Chucky Mullins Courage Award Banquet, said he has pushed for Mullins’ jersey to be retired for several years.

“For all the years I’ve been involved in the award and the banquet, we have probably brought this up every year as a possibility. Who knows, I guess it’s just like when people are voted in the hall of fame: the timing is right. I’m actually thrilled for Chucky’s family and what it means to them,” Wallace said.

Wallace said the decision will not affect the award or banquet, which raises money to assist Ole Miss students who are involved in serious accidents.

The only change will be on the field each year, where the Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient will wear a shoulder patch instead of No. 38.

Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, who is the 2006 recipient of the Courage Award, will don the patch on his No. 49 jersey this season.

The design hasn’t been finalized, but athletics director Pete Boone said it will resemble patches worn by players during bowl games.