He has stood singed in the faltering heartbeat of a razed landscape.
He has been branded a failure and left to seek refuge in a carapace as the public puts a target on anyone in sky blue.
But now Mitchell Pearce is prepared to emerge from his shell and pull on the NSW Blues' prized No. 7 jersey unburdened by fear of failure.
Come Wednesday night, he will draw level with rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns as the Blues' most-capped halfback of all time.
Having risen from the canvas once more, Pearce will be the name of everyone's lips when NSW meet Queensland in the State of Origin decider at Sydney Olympic Park.
And in Blues coach Brad Fittler's rightfully short-lived search for the man to guide his side through one more championship round, battle-hardened Pearce looms as the perfect man for the job.
The call to replace injured halfback Nathan Cleary with the much-maligned playmaker now fighting out of Newcastle was met with a mixed response to say the least.
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For every celebrant there has been two doubters pointing at Pearce's record in sky blue - 18 caps for just five wins since debuting as a 19-year-old in 2008.
Among them sit zero series triumphs. But Pearce is not weighed down by the baggage of yesteryear.
Mentally, he is ready - perhaps more so than he ever has been.
Being lauded as something of a saviour he was plunged into an Origin decider was too big a cross to bear for a teenager with 30 NRL games to his name.
The Blues were skippered by Danny Buderus in game three of that 2008 series. Alongside him in the pack was Craig Fitzgibbon. Both now serve alongside Johns in Fittler's brains trust.
But it was the men on the other side of the halfway line at kick-off who would go a long way towards defining Pearce as one that could not stand up on the big stage.
Think Immortal candidates Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston, the latter of whom once told Pearce to "get a photo with the Wally [Lewis] statue because that's the closest he's going to get to holding the shield".
Think Hall of Fame-bound fullback Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk - the man that effectively forced Pearce out of Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Their mesmerising ability seemed to convince the masses Pearce was more than just one player in a squad of 17.
Pearce's nightmare run on the interstate stage is dissected by the Blues' drought-breaking series win in 2014, one commandeered by Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds.
They too met a Queensland side boasting some of the game's greatest - but Cronk left the field with a broken arm inside the first 20 minutes of the series.
And now Pearce comes face to face with a revamped Queensland side as part of a new-look NSW spine to which he is perfectly in tune. His re-entry is anything but tentative.
Again he will link up with James Maloney in the halves - the man he won a premiership with at the Sydney Roosters - and he will be captained by Boyd Cordner, with whom he was inseparable in Bondi.
The halves will be fed by Damien Cook out of dummy-half, to whom Pearce seems a perfect foil.
One of Pearce's great strengths is his support play - he competes on every play. One of Cook's is his ability to turn on the jets and put defenders on the back foot.
It will cause enormous headaches for a Maroons defensive line which resembled swiss cheese in their 32-point thrashing in game two. Holes everywhere.
Pearce is exceptional on the other side of the ball. His defence is immaculate, stirring memories of Johns in his prime.
Joey - Pearce's idol, the man whose DVD he used to watch on a loop as a teenager, his mentor, the one who delivered the greatest individual performance in Origin history.
That same man, perhaps the greatest footballer to ever lace up the boots, is helping Pearce and Maloney plot Queensland's downfall.
And perhaps more importantly than anything, Maloney knows his comrade is ready. If he wins, he is a hero. Lose and he will be run across the border.
"That's what NSW people do," Maloney said.
"If you get it wrong they hammer you. He's copped a lot of unfair criticism and I think he's been a scapegoat for when things have gone wrong.
"It wasn't all deserved and it wasn't all on him. He wears it, he's always handled it. You've got to admire his ability to move past it and continue to play on and play good football.
"I'd love to see him get the job done out here and right a few wrongs."
In that, Maloney is not alone. For this game is the one Pearce will likely be remembered for.
Not the 267 NRL games to which he is still adding, not the 2013 grand final in which he helped the Roosters to victory.
Whether he walks a lap of honour with the weight of a state lifted from his shoulders or sits dejected in the bowels of the stadium, it will be this game that leaves the biggest impact on Pearce's legacy.