A fierce determination and single-minded focus on achieving his dreams has paid off for Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, who has been named to make his All Blacks debut off the bench against Argentina this weekend.
He was named in the All Blacks squad for the series against France in June, but did not feature in a match day squad, having to bide his time behind the likes of Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.
This weekend, with the squad being rotated for the match in Nelson, the former Rotorua Boys' High School student gets his chance and his family could not be more proud.
Tahuriorangi's grandfather John Merito said his grandson had always punched above his weight.
"In terms of his physique, Te Toiroa will always be the smallest fella on the field, that's including the referee, but he has the heart of a lion. Because of his time playing rugby league when he was younger, he's a really good tackler. A lot of little guys don't like to tackle the big guys, but he loves it."
As a young man Tahuriorangi was passionate about a number of sports, including rugby union, league and touch rugby, but he got to a point in his life where he had to choose one.
"Talking to some of the older rugby league people in Rotorua, they said he had all the skills to do well if he'd gone that way. I think rugby is better suited for him, though, because he can engage a lot more with the team."
Some of Tahuriorangi's family were travelling to Nelson for the game while others, such as Merito, planned a special viewing session at home.
"Hopefully he'll get some game time in the weekend, I'm quietly confident he will. We're going to have a huge barbecue at home and enjoy the game. We've always been proud of him, even when he was a young kid, the stickability and perseverance is now starting to pay off.
"We're really proud because he just stuck at his craft. He was always going to be a halfback but some coaches tried him in other positions. He always knew his specialist position was halfback.
"There's a lot of talented young players, especially Māori and Pasifika, but it's just about keeping disciplined and putting yourself in the right position. He went to Taranaki because it didn't look like there were a lot of options in the Bay. That took a lot of courage.
"We've celebrated all his achievements over time, through all the junior stuff. He's humble like his parents, he's ferocious on the field but otherwise he likes to get along quietly, he's a quiet achiever."
An example of how down to earth Tahuriorangi remains is what he gets up to in the weekends during the Super Rugby season.
"He'd play his game for the Chiefs on the Friday night and then, because he's passionate about the Rotoiti rugby team, he'd run the water for them on a Saturday. He doesn't stand on a title or anything like that, he just wants to give back to the community he lives in and try to inspire others," Merito said.
Tahuriorangi's dad Pae Tahuriorangi said he was proud of all his son had achieved, but had always strived to keep him grounded.
"It's humbling, we're excited and at the same time we realise he's in a place right now where every kid who plays rugby dreams of being an All Black. We're ecstatic and at the same time very humbled.
"He's definitely worked hard and it comes with sacrifices, like many sportspeople, whether it's just for your local club or at a higher level."
Pae and the immediate family are travelling to Nelson to watch the game.
"We'll enjoy the moment with him. I'd be lying if I said it won't be emotional. My phone's been going crazy with messages and calls from family and friends in Australia, England, the United States and these people are crying.
"But like usual, when he runs on the field, he picks up a piece of grass and understands why he's there. It's enjoy the moment but remember that back in the day people fought for the land, he's just fighting in a different manner, on the rugby field."
He also paid tribute to Rotorua woman "Aunty" Bea Yates, who lost her battle with cancer on Thursday, saying it was people like her who inspired the youth of Rotorua to work hard and chase their dreams.
The All Blacks' Rugby Championship game against Argentina kicks off at 7.35pm at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.