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Paralyzed Athlete Who Inspired Fellow Student Dies From Blood Clot

May 7, 1991

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ Former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, left paralyzed from the neck down in a 1989 game, was sure God would someday heal him.

His courage and sunny disposition after the accident so inspired University of Mississippi students and others that they raised $1 million for his living and medical expenses and built him a $70,000 house on city-donated land near campus.

Roy Lee ″Chucky″ Mullins, who had regained some use of his upper body, died Monday in a Memphis, Tenn., hospital of complications from a blood clot in his lungs. He was 21.

″Everyone’s shellshocked. When we heard the news, our hearts just dropped,″ said Darron Billings, a former teammate. ″We lost our spirit.″

Students and administrators remembered him as an athlete whose injury had reached across racial lines to unite the campus. Mullins was black.

″I think his tragedy gave the Ole Miss family an opportunity to really show the changes that have occurred within the family. Here was a member who was tragically hurt, who needed help, and that’s all that mattered,″ said Chancellor Gerald Turner.

″Black or white was not an issue. He was a member of our family and we rallied around him and continued to do so.″

Soon after his accident, President Bush visited him in the hospital, and fellow students elected him Colonel Rebel, the highest elected honor for a male student on campus. Seven students who had campaigned for Colonel Rebel withdrew their names in Mullins’ honor.

Mullins never gave up hope he would regain the use of his arms and legs. He had regained some upper-body movement and returned to classes in January.

″I just keep faith in the Lord,″ Mullins said in a June 1990 interview. ″I feel like he will lay his hands on me. I just keep praying.″

Mullins had planned to get a degree in communications and coach football after graduation. But on Wednesday, while dressing for class, Mullins passed out and stopped breathing. Doctors said he had a clot that moved to his lungs.

″We were hoping that his motto of ‘Never quit,’ along with our prayers would pull him through,″ said former teammate Marvin Courtney.

″He was such an inspiration. That’s what makes it so difficult,″ Courtney said with tears in his eyes. ″He always gave his all.″

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