Nick Feakes was a wide-eyed kid from Canberra with rugby dreams when he decided to shoot off emails to college teams in the United States to see if he could jag a scholarship.
Four years later Feakes is on the verge of being recognised as the best player in the US college system after slipping through the Australian rugby cracks.
Uni-Norths Owls junior and former Dickson College student Feakes is one of five finalists for the Rudy Scholz award, with the winner to be announced at a gala dinner on June 9.
It's a remarkable rise for a playmaker who couldn't break into the ACT Brumbies junior representative teams.
Feakes now regularly plays in front of thousands of Lindenwood University fans and hopes he can break into the newly created Major League Rugby competition when he graduates.
"Short-term I really want to give this professional comp a go," Feakes said.
"I want to be a part of something new and exciting. The US has been referred to a lot as a sleeping giant of world rugby and I believe that’s true. So I want to be a part of growing the game here and waking that sleeping giant up so to speak."
The Rudy Scholz award was started two years again and honours the life of a two-time Olympic Games rugby gold medallist who also fought at two world wars.
The two previous winners, Dylan Audsley and Bruce Campbell, played for the US at the Americas Rugby Championship earlier this year and Feakes could follow the same path.
The list for this year's award was cut from 12 to five after an initial public vote, with an expert panel to make a final decision on the winner.
Feakes is eligible to play for either Australia or the US, but the lure of the MLR will likely see him continue his career abroad rather than returning to the capital.
"I wasn’t cracking the Brumbies age-grade sides so I didn’t have many any prospects of playing footy for a living in Australia. I felt like I had nothing to lose so I may as well get out and travel," Feakes said.
"I started looking at universities and they were all extremely expensive. So then I thought what about rugby and if they have scholarships.
"I shot off a bunch of emails. Lindenwood University was the one who responded the quickest and was the most helpful in getting back to me."
But his love of the US doesn't mean he's turned his back on Australia. Feakes would be open to returning home, in particular if the Australian sevens came knocking.
He has spent the past two college breaks playing for the Chicago Lions in sevens tournaments, winning the player of the year award in 2016 and making the dream team at the same event.
But it almost never happened when he returned to Canberra for a holiday and didn't want to return to Lindenwood, based in Saint Charles, Missouri.
"After that first semester [I] told mum, 'look I don’t think I’m [going to] go back. I’ve given it a crack and it's not for me.'
"She ended up saying something like: 'You’ll be fine, this is your dream. And your flight back is already booked so tough luck.'
"So I played for the Uni Norths colts during that uni break and when I headed back for the next semester I enjoyed myself a lot more. I am super happy mum pushed me.
"I played from the Owls from when I was 12 until I was 18. It’s where I learnt to love footy. I loved my time at the club and it holds a close place in my heart."