It took 1,786 digs, 126 matches and four years of wearing orange and white for Ellen Mullins to get where she is today, but it took just a single moment for the Tennessee native to become a Vol for life.
And it was a moment the leader of UT's 2013 volleyball team had been awaiting for her entire life.
"I'm from Nashville originally, so UT has always been close to my heart," Mullins said. "It means a lot, and it's something to take pride in, coming here. I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else."
Mullins stepped onto the court four years ago for the Lady Vols as a four-time Tennessee state championship competitor, a finalist for the Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year in 2009 and the first player in her alma mater's history to start each game for four consecutive years.
However, her greatest success was yet to come.
Flash forward four years, and Mullins is now entrenched as one of the best defensive specialists in Tennessee Lady Vols history.
After a home match against the Florida Nov. 20, Mullins became the career digs leader in the history of Tennessee volleyball. She closed her career last week with 1,786 digs. Mullins not only topped former Lady Vol record holder, Chloe Goldman (1,755 digs) in Tennessee career digs history, but she has also passed Goldman on the all-time leader board for career digs in SEC history, leaving Mullins at No. 5.
Though Mullins has left a few humble words in her interview trail following her record breaking success, head coach Rob Patrick illustrated just how monumental Mullins' feat truly is.
"The thing I think people need to understand is that it's not that she just broke our records. It's that most records she's breaking are held by all-Americans (Amy Morris), by defensive players of the year (Chloe Goldman)," Patrick said. "She's breaking records that were set by some of the very top players that played NCAA volleyball. That's what makes what she does so incredible."
Apart from becoming one of the greatest Tennessee volleyball players Knoxville has ever seen, she's also shown her admirable character as, first and foremost for Mullins, a member of the Tennessee volleyball team.
"She's a team player," said Patrick. "Individual awards are really secondary to Ellen. That's what so great about her. She'll talk first about winning the SEC championship before she'll talk about her records. That's just who she is. She lives that. She lives that every day in practice. And then she lives that every day in matches.
"That's what makes her such a great player," Patrick added. "I couldn't have a better player on the team. I wish I had 12 of her."
Though Mullins' success has been abundant, her four years have included trials. A rebuilding UT squad struggled to a 9-23 (1-16 SEC) record this year.
"This year she's a captain," Patrick said. "And she's suffered a lot. We have such a young team and a lot of newcomers on the team. But she's somebody that has affected the team in an incredibly positive way, not just on the court, but off the court."
So what's this volleyball standout going to miss about being a Lady Vol?
She offered a few answers prior to Saturday's season-ending match.
"They've given me so many things to miss," Mullins said. "I'm gonna miss my teammates. They're like my sisters. And the coaching staff, they're like my family. I'll miss just running out of that tunnel out of TBA. It's hard to know that it's gonna be the last time I step foot, playing, in Thompson-Boling."
However, Mullins' isn't the only nostalgic member of the Tennessee volleyball program as she concludes her career.
"I just couldn't be more proud of who she is as a person and how she's represented Tennessee for four years," Patrick said. "Like I said, she's one of the all-time great Tennessee volleyball players. I'm so glad — I'm so blessed — that she's part of our program."