Mike Nesbitt insisted hanging tough was key after finally achieving the switch from TV anchor to elected politician.
Admitting he was gutted by his defeat to the DUP's Jim Shannon in last year's Westminster election, the 53-year-old Ulster Unionist said sticking with politics had helped prove to the electorate he was serious about his new career choice.
"I think people have accepted that this guy didn't come in, lose and then run away - he stuck with it," the one time Ulster Television star and victims commissioner said after taking a seat in Strangford.
Winning a seat with party colleague David McNarry, Mr Nesbitt provided a rare highlight for the UUP in what was an otherwise disappointing election.
Even by doubling its representation to two MLAs, the UUP could not deny another resounding victory for the DUP in the battle for unionist supremacy. Jonathan Bell, Simon Hamilton and Michelle McIlveen all took seats comfortably, the latter as the surprise poll topper.
Alliance's Kieran McCarthy retained his seat in emphatic style, notching the second most first preference votes.
In West Tyrone, a marathon election count saw heavyweight UUP runner Ross Hussey take one of three seats decided without reaching the quota.
The count at Omagh Leisure Complex finished just before 8pm on Saturday, nearly 48 hours after polls closed.
Sinn Fein retained the first three seats declared with Barry McElduff topping the poll for the second consecutive Assembly election, joined by West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and newcomer Michaela Boyle.
The DUP's Tom Buchanan and Joe Byrne of the SDLP were the other two to edge home, but the toast of unionism was Mr Hussey. The 52-year-old wrested the seat back from the DUP who took it from his elder brother Derek in 2007.