He cut his teeth on footy fields throughout the Bay of Plenty but Whakatāne's Jamie Searle is now playing on the hallowed turf of Villa Park in the United Kingdom.
Searle, 18, has just signed a one-year contract with English professional football club Aston Villa after a successful trial that extended from an initial 10 days to four-and-a-half weeks.
At almost two metres tall, its unsurprising Searle is a goalie.
According to former coach Sam Wilkinson from Melville United in Hamilton, having a "monster" frame certainly lends a hand to being a keeper but Searle, he said, has all the attributes required for the position.
"I've had Jamie in and around the club for the past two years after he followed his older brother Luke to Melville," Wilkinson said. "The more I watched him the more obvious his potential became.
"Jamie is quite raw as a keeper but has a great temperament, is humble, has an ability to listen and learn and his size helps."
"I had a feeling if we could get him over to England and in front of the right people, someone else would see the potential and be wondering what 12 months of professional coaching could do, and give him that initial chance."
Wilkinson got in touch with a mate who serves as head of the goal keeping academy at Aston Villa and was able to secure Searle a 10-day trial.
"The fact that Jamie has a UK passport helped too."
The trial was extended for an additional week once the 10-days were up, with Villa suggesting he stay for a little longer at the end of each week. After four-and-a-half weeks he was offered a contract.
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In a pre-season friendly game between Aston Villa and Tamworth, Searle managed to save two penalties. Villa won the game 4-1 and, to Searle's credit, he had been subbed when the one goal against Villa was scored.
"We were watching the game back home and had to laugh at how Jamie had gone from a Melville United seconds game where you'd be lucky to have one man and his dog in support, to a Villa pre-season friendly in front of 2000 people.
"However jokes aside, I've told Jamie there's still a lot of work left to do. Without being a party pooper he basically has to treat the next 12 months as a continual trial. He has to be consistently improving – in professional circles there's always someone waiting to knock you off your perch."
Wilkinson said it was up to Searle to succeed. "It's on him and how hard he is prepared to work to determine whether he has a big future in the game.
"He definitely has the ability."
For Searle, Aston Villa was always his first choice. He travelled to the UK on June 25 and started at Villa on July 3.
"It was definitely the club I wanted most," Searle told the Rotorua Daily Post . "I have been lucky enough to start in all of Villa's pre-season games but my first start was the most memorable, saving two penalties and keeping a clean slate for 60 minutes.
"It felt amazing, and also pretty humbling, to have 1000 supporters from each team applauding when I was subbed in the 60th."
He said the contract meant a lot as all young footballers dreamed of someday being a professional athlete and being able to do what they love as a job.
"Although it sounds like I've made it to the big stage, I know I haven't and that I'm only at the beginning – there's a lot of hard work to do yet."
He paid tribute to the coaches and his teammates at St Peters and Melville for all the help they had given him toward achieving his dream.
"But most of all I would like to thank my family, especially my brother Luke, who has opened doors to opportunities for me and always been there in support."
Not long after Searle, his mother Lisa and Luke arrived in the UK, his English grandfather died unexpectedly.
"I would like to dedicate my contract to him on behalf of Luke and myself."