Mullin was presented with the award Friday for his work in co-founding the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation, which provides emotional and financial support to those affected by and living with paralysis.
Q: Your former teammate and co-founder, Thomas Smith, had his career derailed by two separate spinal-cord injuries. What impact did have on starting this foundation?
A: With Tom, I think it was being around someone who is a great person already and to see him go through such a hard time, it was hard not to act on that. To overcome not one, but two separate paralyzing injuries, it's amazing. His story speaks for itself. We were able to play off each other, I think, and our relationship has grown from being teammates and friends to being founders of this organization.
Q: Did you ever imagine the foundation growing the way it has?
A: I think the expectation was there was a potential to be very successful, but not at this stage. I would have never imagined being in this position today. It's truly humbling and it's just a testament of who you surround yourself with. We have some great supporters on all levels and we're able to utilize them and become better at what we do. We're always looking to improve in areas, too. It's the very beginning level of all this, really. That's the truth.
Q: What's been the most rewarding aspect of doing this?
A: It's the relationships. That's the most impactful thing, and it's the best thing I'll take from it. If you look at the relationships, I started with Tom. We started our organization and now we've met nine different individuals who really inspire us. We're continuing to meet people and continuing to see incoming grant recipients that embrace the same qualities that he has. We're able to maintain that.
Q: Being a college athlete and student, how tough of a balancing act was all this work?
A: I embrace being organized with what I do. There's certainly trade-offs, and sometimes [with school work], but I never let that affect the overall end point of anything. You're in a routine -- being a college athlete and being a student-athlete -- and you take that and prioritize. The foundation is one of the things that has always come first for me, and it will continue to do that. That's how you balance -- you know what really matters at the end of the day.
Q: As a senior, what's the future for both you and the foundation?
A: With me, the direction is that mostly I want to establish a professional career of my own, but this is going to run parallel with that, just like it has run parallel with hockey. That's really the next step for me -- making partnerships in the spinal-cord injury community, growing that, becoming more well-known and more efficient with what we do.