Xavier Stowers was told he had the world at his feet and in a twist of misfortune, a serious shoulder injury had him feeling the world was crashing down.
But in a prospect his opponents should fear, the challenges have only made the Hastings Deering Colts prop stronger as he looks to push the limits of his talent at Burleigh Bears.
Stowers' progression in rugby league is stunning considering he only picked up a Steeden four years ago.
Born into a rugby union family - his dad George Stowers notching 23 Test caps for Manu Samoa, including matches at the 2011 Rugby World Cup - the young protege earned a scholarship to Ipswich Grammar School to hopefully one day pursue the 15-man game.
That was until his manager told him of a trial for the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup at Ipswich Jets.
“I was pretty much going to do the pre-season and go back to union. He was saying league pre-season was real different to union, it was more gruelling," Stowers said.
"But I came to pre-season and after pre-season I ended up just loving the game. I found I liked the contact and the mindset around it, and that pulled me in."
The switch was made to Marsden State High School where he literally became a student of the game guided by the school's rugby league coordinator Matt Hartigan, helping shape him into the damaging ball runner he is today.
“In Year 12, I had a pretty good school footy campaign with Marsden State High School, so there was a lot of hype built around me for the next season for Colts," Stowers said.
"I was ready to get stuck in and try to open some eyes in the footy world.
“I did all the pre-season for Souths Logan Magpies and come Round 1, we played at Sunshine Coast and pretty much on my second run I did my shoulder, dislocated my shoulder and had to get surgery on it the next week.
"That was a Latarjet surgery and it took me out for nine months. They pretty much cut a bone from my shoulder blade and put it in front of the shoulder socket to help stabilise it, so I didn’t see footy for a whole year last year, pretty much."
It's no understatement that after plenty of hype, including suggestions a Hostplus Cup deal was in the offing, it was a bit of a let down.
Stowers admitted he didn't know how to handle his first major injury.
“I sort of got stuck in a rut. My mental space probably wasn’t the healthiest last year, but come now I’ve come a long way," he said.
“My family – my mum and my brother – they really backed me a whole lot last year. I’m a really emotional bloke and it really got to me when I did my shoulder.
"It took away footy, I thought it was taking away happiness and everything, but my mum and brother reminded me to stick to the grind, stick to the rehab and it will all turn out good, and so far it has.
“It ended up taking way longer than I thought. When I did my shoulder, my whole focus was trying not to (put on weight) when I couldn’t really play footy, so I was focusing heaps on my fitness and I ended up losing heaps of weight and every time I’d check in with the physio, they said I should start focusing on my shoulder, because the shoulder was looking a bit weak.
“I tried to flip that around and tried focusing on my shoulder and my fitness started to deteriorate. It was sort of hard to juggle but it ended up being pretty good towards the end.
“I think I really needed it, just the break from footy to look back and see what I have outside footy and it was a real good mind-awakening, eye-opening sort of thing and I’m actually pretty grateful for that, because I ended up coming out stronger."
And doesn't he look impressive with his strong runs, regularly reaching more than 10 metres per carry and often having an arm free for an offload.
Stowers said he was thankful Burleigh took the chance on him, and particularly to Hastings Deering Colts coach Matt Foster for his patience and level of care as he worked into the pre-season.
It's now paying dividends and allowing him to look to the future once again.
“I just want to try to stay healthy for this year and make it to the back end of the year and hopefully pick up a contract along the way, make the NRL at some stage, but right now get a Hostplus Cup debut," he said.
"That’s something that I’m really striving for this year, but just happy to follow the process and play with the Colts and get the trophy at the end of the year."
Stowers and teammates are enjoying a bye this weekend and will return in Round 10 in a clash with Tweed Seagulls at UAA Park.