Napier Boys' High School pupil Jayden Stok was shocked to hear he'd been named in the 50-strong New Zealand Barbarians Under-18 rugby squad last week.
The 18-year-old centre was blown away by the selection, especially since he was the only player chosen from Hawke's Bay.
"[I] shed a couple tears and just felt very overwhelmed," he said.
The Year 13 pupil said making the squad was the cherry on top of a high school career in which he spent three years in the 1st XV, playing more than 50 games for the side.
Covid-19 threatened to spoil his final season in the sky blue jersey, as cancellations came just two days before Napier Boys' very first game.
Stok was worried at the time, but in the end grateful the season could be played. Wins over Hastings Boys' High School and Palmerston North Boys' High School to claim the Moascar Cup and Polson Banner respectively were clear highlights.
Napier Boys' High School 1st XV coach Brendon Ratcliffe said he and the rest of the team were rapt for Jayden, very proud and excited for what lies ahead for him.
"He works really hard on and off the field, and it means a lot to him," Ratcliffe said, noting the incredible support provided by Stok's mother Kylie and father John.
The coach recalls first getting an idea of how special Jayden was during his Year 11 season when the team made it to the national championship final, largely thanks to Stok's stellar playoff performances.
"As a 15 to 16-year-old, he never took a backward step in the toughest of battles," Ratcliffe said.
"He's the sort of player that the bigger the challenge the bigger the response you get out of him."
And the coach said that will hold Stok in good stead to take opportunities in the future.
"He's certainly got the explosiveness and the drive and the ability to make a profession out of rugby."
Stok is in discussions with the Hawke's Bay, Otago and Tasman rugby unions over where he will play next year, and is heading down to the South Island in the next month or so to get a feel for the different environments before making his decision.
"Regardless of where I go I'm looking at studying civil and mechanical engineering, whether that be at university or a polytechnic," he said.
Stok said the whole process was exciting, although fielding offers from far and wide was a little overwhelming, particularly during the high school season.
"It's something that you see happen in movies," he said.
Two teams will be formed out of the Barbarians squad of 50 to face each other in a one-off match on October 9.