Kentrell Lockett stood humbled in front of a packed house inside the indoor practice facility Thursday.
He had just heard Derek Jones, the 1996 Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient and current Duke assistant coach, preach of accountability. Nate Wayne, Lanier Goethie and Ronnie Heard, all former winners, were in attendance and nodded in agreement.
Derek Jones and Brad Gaines
Jones called the honor “unique” and made known that it “doesn’t belong to anybody else” but Ole Miss.
It’s named after the late Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins, who was injured on October 28, 1989 during Ole Miss’ homecoming game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Mullins was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away on May 6, 1991.
“Every year, this is my third time to do this, but every year it seems like it gets deeper and deeper,” Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. “This award has really grown on me. Once you realize, understand, hear the stories… it breaks you down a little bit. It means a lot.”
Lockett never set out to win the award when he arrived at Ole Miss over four years ago. A model defensive standout is given the chance to don the revered No. 38 before the upcoming season, but Lockett had carried those traits all along.
His parents, who he credits with a loving and stern background, instilled character in the soon-to-be senior defensive end. It was only fitting that on this night, a night of Ole Miss celebration, that Lockett would be the one standing beside a bronze-colored silhouette of Chucky’s likeness.
“I’m just grateful, all-around grateful, that the coaches believed in me enough to put me in a nomination pool with great guys and to think I’m a responsible enough guy to receive this award,” Lockett said.
Lockett was chosen by the football coaching staff and members of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award committee. Other finalists included Johnny Brown, Jonathan Cornell, Jerrell Powe, Allen Walker and Ted Laurent.
“It really was very difficult,” Nutt said. “Our coaches honestly couldn’t decide on one, because we believe in every one of those guys. I think every one of them would have been a good representative, but we’re pleased with the selection.”
Lockett, who wears No. 40, will have the honor of wearing a “38” patch on his jersey during his senior campaign. The Hahnville, La. native is the 21st recipient of the award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
“It just shows that hard work, a good attitude and just living right pays off,” Lockett said.
A three-year letterman, Lockett has started every game the past two seasons and helped the Rebel defense top the SEC in tackles for loss both years. He earned All-SEC third team honors in 2009, when he recorded a team-high 13 QB pressures and ranked second on the team in both TFLs (10.0) and sacks (5.0).
As a sophomore, Lockett tied for eighth in the conference in TFLs with 11.5, and he gained national notoriety for his historic blocked extra point in the 31-30 upset of eventual national champion Florida in Gainesville.
“He’s always been a class act,” Nutt said. “We’ve never had one minute of trouble out of Kentrell. He’s just been a special guy, a tremendous leader for us and an excellent football player.”