Sixth year Senior Linebacker Deterrian Shackelford was awarded the 2014 Chucky Mullin’s Courage award for the second time in his career today, which is a first in the history of the award which has been given annually since 1990.
It’s a unique honor for a player to wear a “in-memoriam” number to represent a player that did not have the chance to finish out his career as an Ole Miss Rebel.
Chucky Mullins was injured during homecoming in 1989 and never returned to the field. He was critically paralyzed, so he focused all his drive and determination on rehabilitation and in the process inspired generations of fans and players ever since.
In 2010, a young sophomore from Decatur Alabama was working equally as hard on the field and off, making his case for a starting role at defensive end and linebacker all while making the honor roll academically.
Deterrian Shackelford amassed 48 total tackles that year, including 9 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks in only 6 starts. His stock was rising and looked to be a dominate pass rusher for the Rebels in 2011.
Only three days later, the 2011 Mullins award was given to Shackelford, (Youtube Video) not for what he could do on the field but for who he was as a person in the locker room and in the classroom. Deterrian’s award speech was especially emotional, not only because of his recent injury but also because this would be the first time in 5 years the jersey would actually be worn by a player on the field. (It was retired in 2006 and a #38 patch was worn by the award recipient)
Also, 2011 was the first year underclassmen were considered for the award. So, careful consideration was given to the maturity and leadership of the award winner that year.
Ole Miss was not left disappointed by their choice of award winner.
What was initially thought to be a six month rehab, turned out to be much more. Deterrian was not making progress in rehab. His knee didn’t seem to be getting any better or any stronger. His dream of getting back on the field late in the 2011 season would have to be forgotten and he would focus on rallying his team and leading from the sideline wearing #38.
His six month rehab turned in to 12 months and then in early 2012, it was discovered there was additional tears in the ACL ligament. Deterrian had to face the fact that he would not be 100 percent if he tried to play the 2012 season. The prudent thing to do would be to have an additional surgery and put everything he had into maybe playing in 2013.
Shackelford was quoted in ESPN as saying, “The hardest part is not being out there with my teammates. Especially when you go through a season like we had last year (2011).” His teammate Charles Sawyer commented, “He’s an amazing guy, a tremendous leader. He’s always there. Even if he’s not in pads, he’s there motivating guys and making everyone feel like they are important.”
Deterrian was resolute in getting back on the field. He was determined to represent himself and #38 as best he could. “I just want the opportunity again. Sometimes we forget it’s a blessing to be out here playing. We take it for granted. I can promise you that I don’t take anything for granted.”
Denzel Nkemdiche came to Ole Miss in 2012 and only knew Deterrian as a passionate role model. “I just love DT, I came to Ole Miss when he was hurt but the passion he has is unbelievable. His voice is always heard. You’ve got to respect a guy like that. I hope he gets another opportunity to do the thing he loves.”
Finally the 2013 season come around, and a determined wild eyed veteran Shackelford was ready to hit the field with 150% effort. Deterrian endured a coaching change since he last played on the field and new coach Hugh Freeze felt like the role he could play was really up to him. “DT is such a leader on our team and people listen to him so he is very valuable in that. The more he plays the better. Hopefully with a summer camp (prior to the 2013 season) he can get rid of some of the rust he has but I can’t really answer how much he will play right now.”
Shackelford knew what he had to do and was willing to put his all into what could very well be his last opportunity to play the game of football (from Mississippi Press). “It starts with the mind. I’ve done enough rehab and worked enough in the weight room to know that I’ve done everything I can physically. I feel like I am stable but it’s the mindset to know that I can make any cuts I need that won’t affect it. I think I have a lot to offer with my experience. I hope I can be an inspiration to young guys who get hurt, they can see me and say, ‘He was out for two years, but he didn’t give up and now he’s back.’ ”
His senior year in 2013, Shackelford played in every game, mostly playing defensive end. He recorded 44 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback sacks, flashing the knack for getting to the quarterback that was so promising in 2010. After a stellar bowl game in Nashville against Georgia Tech, he was named to ESPN’s All-Bowl team as he had 7 tackles and 1 sack in that game alone.
Looking at his options, Deterrian petitioned the NCAA to allow him to have a sixth year of eligibility which they can allow when a player misses a season or more due to injury. Head Coach Hugh Freeze was quoted as saying (from Mississippi Press), “I’m excited that DT plans to return for another year. He brings great energy and leadership to our defense and is exactly the type of student athlete we want in our program. I’m grateful to have a senior like him to provide a good example for our young players.”
During his time off the field, Deterrian finished his undergraduate History degree in three years with a minor in English. He is now pursuing a graduate degree in high education with hopes to be a principal after football. He is a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete, a four-time SEC academic honor roll, he was the group leader for the team’s 2013 spring break mission trip to Panama, a pre-college program counselor for Ole Miss Outreach, participated in relay for life, the Oxford food pantry program and volunteers on cancer research fundraisers.
There is no better player that could represent the 2014 Chucky Mullin’s award.
The redemption that this award represents is reflected in Shackelford personally and even in the Ole Miss program. A team that in 2009 was ranked in the top 5, finished with 9 wins, but has struggled to get back to that level ever since. This is redemption for the player personally who looked to be a NFL prospect as a sophomore, and he may still get his opportunity.
Shackelford hopes to increase his production on an Ole Miss defense that seems to be coming together and battling one of the better offenses in the SEC in spring practice. Shackelford has been taking most of the number one snaps at middle linebacker this spring and is expected to help shut down the run for Ole Miss in 2014.
Just getting back on the field is the key for Shackelford, who is still playing with reckless abandon. Offensive coordinator Dave Wommack was quoted last week (from OMSpirit.com), “I love his energy and leadership but sometimes he over runs gaps and plays a little out of control. We are refining his game a little, he will be fine.” Linebackers coach Tom Allen adds, “We bounced him around a lot last year and he didn’t get a chance to hone in on (the) linebacker (position). I think he is physically moving better in year two after the surgeries. We are seeing him make plays he wasn’t capable of making last year.”
The extra season has to feel like a dream come true for Deterrian and it has the potential to pay off in a big way for the Rebels who after winning bowl games the last two years have an opportunity to finish at the top of the SEC West.
“It’s so much fun to just play out here, after 3 years. I’m trying to play with a lot of joy and just enjoy being with my teammates.”
Deterrian Shackelford, your 2014 Chucky Mullins award winner.