Mullins’ impact on Ole Miss, Gaines still resonates 25 years later
Ole Miss fans who aren’t able to get the SEC Network need to find a provider that offers it.
Apart from all the live football games and overall sporting events the network is going to offer, ESPN’s new movie “It’s Time” is worth the switch to Dish Network or AT&T U-Verse.
The first 20 minutes of the movie, about the relationship between Ole Miss cornerback Chucky Mullins and Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines, absolutely silenced the media that were fortunate enough to preview it last week at SEC Media Days.
You could have heard a pin drop when the first segment came to an end. There were two showings that night. It was the same way the second time. There was just no other way to feel after watching the interviews and watching the backstory of Gaines and his family.
Former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer was one of the dozen people shown in the first segment. Brewer said he thought Mullins had died on the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that Saturday in October 1989. Sure, some have probably heard him say that around town, but when you hear it on the big screen, the meaning of the words are so much more impactful. They were to me, at least.
Gaines was heavily profiled in the opening, and ESPN said that this story is seen through his eyes, his emotions, and his feelings. Tears rolled down Gaines’ face two times during his interviews. It literally took him 45 seconds to get out a few words about the incident; he was so choked up.
It’s been almost 25 years since the collision occurred. There were some 40,000 people who saw Mullins blast Gaines in the back, breaking up a pass, live. The footage of the play was replayed a few times in the opening. David Kellum, the “Voice of the Rebels,” talked about the hit on the radio, and then he described to those that weren’t at the game that Mullins was the injured player down, laying on the ground, with his arms out like a cross.
Leroy Mullins, the head trainer at Ole Miss at the time, asked Chucky Mullins what was the matter when he finally reached him. Chucky Mullins said he didn’t feel anything. Leroy Mullins talked about pinching the 19-year-old on the leg. No response. His arm had no response. Nothing until he reached his neck area. “Ow,” said Chucky Mullins, who then had his facemask cut away and his head taped down to a board in order to be moved to the hospital in Memphis.
Many of the Rebel players asked: why did this happen? This was the guy that everyone loved. As Brewer said in the movie, Chucky Mullins was the one that always wanted the best for his teammates. He never wanted to see them fighting or fussing. Those that played with Mullins will never forget that moment, and what his legacy truly means to Ole Miss and the fans that supported him the remaining two years he was alive.
Chucky Mullins’ impact to Ole Miss football is beyond significant, and this movie shows that his life didn’t just stop, it lives on, through the Ole Miss player that wears his jersey number 38 each fall, and through Gaines, the man who deals with the hit like no other.
Gaines said he comes to Oxford on a regular basis. He walks or runs on the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. If the gates aren’t open, he jumps the fence. Nothing is going to prevent him from getting down to the 3-yard line where the hit happened.
In the movie, Gaines sat down on the field during a part of the interview, and just cried, in honor of Mullins. He rocked back and forth, with his feet touching, as if he were stretching before a run.
The camera cut away with him looking up towards the stands and the sky beyond.
It’s therapeutic for him to walk around the stadium and visit the hash mark where his departed friend delivered the blow. Gaines doesn’t remember the score of the game, but he surely knows how the outcome changed him forever.
“Life had been a game for Brad up to that point, but suddenly it wasn’t a game anymore,” said Watson Brown, Gaines’ coach at Vanderbilt. “Brad had never faced adversity. This is the first time that adversity walked up and grabbed him and smacked him in the face, and man what a smack it gave him. Then all at once he realizes there is more to life than football.”
John Davis is the Oxford Citizen sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @oxfordcitizenjd.