A Hawke's Bay teenager is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his hero Ryan Thomas on a path to professional football after receiving a scholarship to New Zealand's top academy.
Caleb Hunt has been offered a spot at the Ole Football Academy in Wellington on a full-time basis.
The Porirua-based academy has produced notable graduates including Besiktas winger Tyler Boyd and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Ryan Thomas.
The 14-year-old, who currently plies his trade for Napier Marist, says he hopes to follow a similar career path to the Bay of Plenty-born Thomas.
"Initially I was overwhelmed, but I feel grateful to have been chosen to attend the academy and am looking forward to playing and training with the best players in Wellington," he said.
"I hope to reach the same level as Ryan Thomas, as I play in the same position. My end goal is just to play for a professional club and represent my country."
The teenage central midfielder has already won a range of trophies and individual awards in his short footballing career, including his young Napier City Rovers teams' player of the year in both 2014 and 2015, before his switch to Napier Marist.
Caleb's father Carl Hunt, a committee member at Marist and board member at Hawke's Bay United, said he always knew his son had the talent to make it.
"We knew if he pushed himself to keep learning, with the right attitude and get the right coaching, he would go a long way in the game," he said.
"This opportunity with Ole doesn't happen often, so it's up to him to see what his future holds. But he will be in the right environment and will have the coaches to help him succeed in his football career."
Founded in 1997 by father and son duo Dave and Michael Wilson, the Ole academy currently shares a partnership with ISPS Handa Men's Premiership side Team Wellington.
Prior to that, Ole partnered with Eastern Suburbs for the 2018/19 season, in which the team won the Premiership title for the first time in their history, using a squad made up largely of academy graduates.
Caleb, whose offer includes on-site accommodation, said he was aiming to learn from those who paved the way.
"I hope to learn more about the game and push myself to improve as a player," he said.
"I'm excited to learn from top coaches at the academy and looking forward to living in the residence with the other boys."
The former Napier Boys' High School student is due to move to Wellington on January 23.
Football well and truly runs through the Hunt family.
"My mum and dad back in the day helped with Napier City Rovers when they played at Nelson Park and my dad helped when Rovers built their new clubrooms at Park Island," Carl Hunt said.
"Our daughter played when she was young and Caleb's brother Bailey plays for Taradale High School first XI and Napier Marist prems team. I even played for NCR reserve team for a few years as a teenager."