The legacy of Chucky Mullins and the number 38 jersey will live on this season through outside linebacker DT Shackelford. Shackelford, who tore his ACL earlier this week during spring drills, is the first junior to receive this award. While the unretirement of number 38 will be rather unceremonious, with DT spending his season on the sidelines, and a break from tradition, considering how the award was conceived to honor a senior defensive back, I cannot help but be thrilled for DT as well as the legacy of Chucky Mullins.
When accepting the award last night, Shackelford was visibly emotional. Tears rolled down his cheeks, his voice crackled, and his body shook while he, atop his crutches, thanked his family, coaches, and teammates for providing him with an opportunity to succeed and giving him cause to recover from his injury and continue playing football. Seeing this (the video can be found on the front page of OleMissSports.com) made me incredibly happy to cheer for a football team lucky enough to have a guy like DT Shackelford on its roster, as well as saddened me a bit to know that I will have to wait until 2012 to see him on the field again.
In a way, I know what emotions he's going through. I've had two similar knee injuries, both of which were less severe and on a much smaller scale than that of an SEC linebacker's torn ACL, but when one endures such an injury a lot of scary thoughts come to mind. "Will the recovery be painful?" "How debilitating will the surgery be?" "Will I be able to do the things I enjoy again?"
It's a tough reality to face - that you're a fragile, mortal being whose youthful athleticism and agility will eventually give way to the rigidities and exhaustion of age - a reality which becomes far too apparent when going under the knife after suffering a seemingly innocuous injury while enjoying a game you love. DT Shackelford though, with the support of his family, coaches, teammates, and fans, is facing this with a steadfast resolve. He will endure and eventually overcome this injury, something which becomes readily apparent when seeing the humility, determination, and aplomp he displays during his acceptance speech.
I can confidently say that Chucky Mullins would be proud to see such a good student, tremendous football player, and humble person as DT Shackleford wearing his number 38. Best of luck to DT in his recovery. DT, know that we're all pulling hard for you, and just as you'll never quit on us, we're never going to quit on you.