OXFORD, Miss. – Twenty-eight years ago, University of Mississippi football player Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins became a quadriplegic when he was injured during the Rebels’ Homecoming game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Decades later, overwhelming response to that tragic incident has been transformed into a triumphant philanthropic achievement benefitting yet another former collegiate football star turned paraplegic by an unfortunate accident.
On April 12, Sigma Nu and Kappa Sigma fraternity members suit up for the 28th annual Sigma Nu Charity Bowl football game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the first time in more than two years that the game has been played in the stadium. The event, which begins at 6 p.m., also features a sorority cheer competition before kick-off and a homecoming-style court at halftime.
“This year’s recipient, Chris Madison of Memphis, will receive $75,000 to aid with costs stemming from his injuries and rehabilitation and to help him complete his undergraduate education,” said James-Roland Markos of Jackson, Tennessee, Sigma Nu chapter president and a senior biology, public policy leadership and biochemistry major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
“Our goal is $150,000, with the additional funds being donated to the establishment of a new student wellness center. We also aim to allot funds to the Manning Family Fund and research to find cures for paralysis. Our goal is to donate remaining funds to local nonprofit organizations serving the LOU community.”
The recipient check presentation and announcement of the cheer competition winner are set for halftime.
Madison, 26, was paralyzed while riding in a car that crashed during a rainstorm. He lives by himself in Memphis and has no way to access transportation, cutting him off from the outside world.
“Our goal is to raise enough money to purchase Chris a handicapped-accessible van that he will be able to take to rehab and eventually to classes to continue his education,” said John North of Birmingham, Alabama, the chapter’s philanthropy chairman. “The brothers of Sigma Nu are wholly moved by the spirit of determination and service Chris personifies as he overcomes his obstacles, and we are honored to be a part of Chris’ inspiring journey.”
A promising talent, Madison was recruited by many colleges and received a full football scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Monticello after graduating from Manassas High School. He planned to pursue a career in undergraduate education after football.
After completing his first year of college, Madison came home for a short summer break before returning to school to prepare for the fall season. Accompanying his cousin on an hour drive up Interstate 40 on a rainy evening, tragedy struck.
“I don’t recall anything from the actual accident itself,” Madison said. “I only remember waking up ejected from the car, lying motionless as two passersby stopped and administered CPR.
“To this day, I have no idea who the two men are, where they came from or where they went afterwards. I call them my guardian angels because physicians later credited them with saving my life.”
Madison’s next recollection was waking up in a hospital bed in Memphis, paralyzed from his waist down with additional nerve damage to his hands and arms, realizing his life would never be the same. After being informed he would never walk again, his first thought was, “How will I provide for my family and what will I do now?”
With football gone forever, Madison’s goal immediately turned to survival. His mother and grandmother, committed and faithful ladies, always taught him to keep the faith, believe and trust in God, and, in the words of the Ole Miss football legend Chucky Mullins himself, “Never quit.”
And Madison has not. Despite the tragedy and loss, he strives to seize every second of life his survival has afforded him. He continues extensive physical therapy to maintain and regain motor function.
Remarkably, he lives on his own in Memphis and dreams of returning to college to complete his education and find a job that will allow him to provide for himself and his family.
“Chris still has huge obstacles to realize his educational aspirations,” North said. “Without reliable, accessible transportation, he cannot finish his education and must wait for someone to be available to take him to physical therapy and elsewhere.
“Proving his will and toughness, his dream is to be able to completely care for himself so he does not need to rely on anyone else, but rather so that others can rely on him.”
Sigma Nu Charity Bowl was founded in 1990 to honor Mullins, who was paralyzed the previous season. Mullins was injured on a play in which he tackled fullback Brad Gaines.
Ole Miss fans, college football fans in the South and people from all over the nation immediately began to donate money towards Mullins’ growing medical expenses. President George H.W. Bush visited Mullins in his hospital room and encouraged him while on a visit to Memphis.
Soon, UM established the Chucky Mullins Trust Fund to properly manage the donations. The city of Oxford donated land for a custom-designed, handicapped-accessible house for him. Donations to the trust fund eventually exceeded $1 million.
Mullins returned to the university on June 20, 1990 to resume his undergraduate studies, but less than a year later, he was stricken by a pulmonary embolism, caused by blood clots formed by inactivity and poor circulation. He died May 6, 1991 and was buried outside his home town of Russellville, Alabama.
Funding is raised for Charity Bowl primarily through program advertisement sales and financial donations. In the years since its inception, Charity Bowl has grown to be the largest collegiate Greek philanthropy in the country.
Through the hard work of the active members, as well as the generous donations of chapter alumni and businesses across the nation, Sigma Nu has been able to accumulate over $1.9 million for its recipients.
“We will break a total of $2 million since the philanthropy’s inception 28 years ago,” Markos said.
In recent years, Sigma Nu also has contributed to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson and to various charitable organizations around the Oxford and Lafayette County community. For more information or to make an online donation, visit http://www.sigmanucharitybowl.com.