"(It's a) good thing I didn't cry. I thought I was going to cry, but I didn't," said Meighan Simmons after the Lady Vols' contest against South Carolina on Sunday. "I was strong enough to hold my tears back."
The statement wasn't necessarily true.
Yes, Simmons didn't shed a tear on the court, but a video honoring the Cibolo, Texas, native during a media timeout in the first half ended with a teary-eyed thank you to the fans.
"Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol," said Simmons to concluded the video.
The journey began with a 22-point, eight-rebound performance against the Louisville Cardinals in her first career game on Nov. 12, 2010 under head coach emeritus Pat Summitt.
She followed that up with 13-straight double digit scoring performances, one short of Chamique Holdsclaw's all-time record set back in 1995-96.
Fast forward approximately three years and three months, and there she was, stepping onto the court for her last regular season home game.
The matchup ended with a 73-61 Tennessee victory over the Gamecocks – the perfect way to send off a player who has currently amassed an .819 winning percentage (113-25) in her career.
"It was a great game," UT head coach Holly Warlick said. "Great effort and a great way to send Meighan out on her last regular season game here."
Simmons scored 16 points in the game, pushing her career total to 1,958. Her fifth basket of the game – a pull-up jumper that pushed the Lady Vols lead up to double digits for good – gave her sole possession of fifth place on the UT all-time scoring list, surpassing Kara Lawson.
Her point total, however, wasn't all that she brought to the table in her final game.
In fact, over the years she has become an all-around player, according to Warlick.
"Right now, as a senior, I think she's playing a complete game," said Warlick before Tuesday's practice. "I know how much this program means to her and I think her teammates understand that, too. I think they rally around her.
"... She's done a heck of a job for us here at Tennessee."
The 2013 SEC Co-Player of the Year has never been one for tooting her own horn, though.
"It was very exciting to have my family out there, but I knew a lot of people were saying, 'This is your day. This is Senior Night,' but tonight really wasn't about me, it was about this team," Simmons said. "It was about us getting a 'W' and taking care of business and trying to think about the future.
"This may have been my last home game in the regular season, but we still have a lot more games to play, and that was my mindset going into this game. I just wanted to come out, give my 110 percent for this team and make sure we got a 'W.'"
In actuality though, Sunday was about Simmons as 17,042 orange-clad fans piled in to Thompson-Boling Arena to pay their respects to one of the most decorated Lady Vol players of all time.
"I think for Meighan's career – she's had to step up," Warlick said. "She started as a freshman and she's had to be big for us throughout her whole career. I can only imagine the type of pressure she feels, but she's delivered."
The amount of weight she has carried on her shoulder for the past three years may not be known, but this season, Simmons made very clear to her teammates the amount of pressure she was under in her last year.
"I think it relieved her a little bit just to be able to share with her team – and I don't think the team realized how much of a burden it was for her because Meighan never lets anything show," said assistant coach Jolette Law about Simmons telling her teammates about the pressure on her. "But when she got up and told them, 'Hey I'm trying," and let it out, her teammates started to realize that she was carrying all this pressure.
"With her teammates helping her, her confidence is back up and now she's playing free."
And play free is exactly what she did on Sunday.
The Lady Vols picked up the victory and Simmons got to share that memorable moment with the people who matter the most to her: her teammates, her coaches and her family.
And of course, her fans.
"I love our fans," Simmons said. "We probably have the most loyal fans that any program could ever have.
"I was really happy and very appreciative of them being on this journey with me, allowing me to share the gift I have with them and appreciated what I do as a basketball player as well as a person."