Ole Miss player who was airlifted to hospital last fall returns inspired by Rebels legend Chucky Mullins
OXFORD — When doubt crept into Ole Miss sophomore tight end Damarcus Thomas' head, the legacy of Rebels legend Chucky Mullins helped clear his mind.
Thomas was airlifted to the hospital after being rendered motionless by a routine hit in a practice on November 2. Minutes after the injury, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said Thomas couldn't feel any sensations or move for a long period of time until the helicopter arrived.
Thomas was discharged from the hospital around 7:15 p.m. and his tests came back clear. He entered into the concussion protocols, cleared them and impressively returned to action one month later in Ole Miss' regular season finale versus LSU.
Thomas suffered a similar injury in high school, coincidentally also on November 2. Thomas said doctors haven't identified a reason why he's prone to such injuries, but he said he's teaching himself to play more cautiously without being afraid.
Thomas admits the road back was difficult. But conversations with strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love and director of sports performance Corey Miller helped put Thomas' situation into perspective.
"They said something that always stuck out to me," Thomas said. "They sent me a picture of the Chucky Mullins head and it says never give up. That really stuck with me. There were times where I didn't know if I was going to keep being able to do the things that I love. But with my team behind my back, keeping encouraging me, I'm so happy for them accepting me back and letting me work."
The injury last fall came on what Thomas described as a "regular day at practice." He says it was a freak accident. At the time, Kiffin described it as the sort of play that gives him pause about letting his son play football.
But Thomas didn't consider retiring after the injury. He appreciated the outpouring of support from coaches, staff, teammates and fans. He said he's appreciative to every person who reached out and supported him after his injury.
Thomas grew emotionally from the surgery, and physically between his freshman and sophomore years. He's an inch taller than he was when he enrolled and said he feels bigger on the field.
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Now it's just a matter of using this newfound size and perspective the right way.
"I'm slowly finding smarter ways to play and better ways to get the job done," Thomas said. "I think about the transition from last year to this year, I feel like last year I was a little bit more wild and loose. I wasn't really under control with my body. Now I'm just more under control, defined in my routes, blocking, making sure technique is right. That's really helping me."
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.