Former All Black flanker Alan Whetton used to get a kick out of watching John Drake's pre-training antics during their days as teammates in the peerless Auckland side of the mid-1980s.
Before coach John Hart took control for training proper, players would have 10 minutes to warm up. It was still an era when many would spend the time sharpening up their little used drop-goal skills.
Drake's ability to effortlessly drill the ball between the posts from the halfway line used to wow most of his teammates - but not all of them.
"I would always see Foxy [former All Blacks first five-eighths Grant Fox], his face starting to squeeze and scrimmage as Drakey banged them over from halfway," Whetton recalled. "I used to love it when you'd see Foxy start to spit the dummy."
Whetton, a year behind Drake at Auckland Grammar in what was one of the school's greatest rugby eras, remembered Drake, who died at home on Saturday at the age of 49, as a man among boys.
"He was just unbelievable," Whetton said.
"You could see he was destined for greater things and it all started in that 1st XV. You knew that John Drake was going to go places on the footy field."
Wayne Shelford, another teammate from the successful 1987 World Cup campaign, didn't encounter Drake until their paths crossed in club rugby.
They would soon be teammates for a brief spell at Auckland and later reunite in the All Blacks. Shelford remembers a perfectionist who would think nothing of continually collapsing scrums until his pack mates put in the perfect supporting shove.
"It didn't matter what game it was, whether he was playing for the All Blacks, Auckland or a trial game, if he didn't get the right hit from behind he would just drop the scrum straight away."
"He would tell off his flankers and locks and if he didn't get the support he would just keep taking it down until they gave him the proper hit. He knew he was only as good as the two people behind him."
Not the biggest man for a prop, Drake was known as a consummate technician. His ball-handling skills and mobility were ahead of his time. "He was a new breed," Whetton said.
Drake retired from rugby after 1987 but it wasn't long until he was back in the game he loved as an expert commentator and columnist.
Widely respected for his incisive and direct insights, particularly when illuminating the little understood dark arts of the scrum, Drake became an invaluable member of Sky's commentary team.
Commentator Grant Nisbett was yesterday still trying to come to terms with his friend's death.
"He was just an all-round good bloke and it is just really hard to accept that this has happened to a bloke of his age," Nisbett said.
Drake was a true pro while working but a character when the cameras stopped rolling, Nisbett said.
"He had some quite good sayings," recalled Nisbett. "If you were walking into a bar he'd always say 'right boys, let's spread out and stick together'. If you were farewelling him at the airport he'd always say 'it's been emotional'. And if you said to him you'd see him next Friday at Carisbrook or whatever he'd always say 'don't be late'.
"I remember one game when I was sitting in the commentary box at Jade Stadium and Drakey came in looking quite agitated. I asked him what the matter was and he said 'I've left my glasses behind'. He needed them to see the monitor so he said 'I won't be much use on this call'. I said Drakey, they are on your head mate."
Nisbett said Drake's matter-of-fact approach was an aid to commentary. "He never really talked negatively about anything and he never harped on about things. If he didn't particularly like something he'd just make the point and move on."
The NZRU was also quick to pay tribute to Drake.
"Our immediate thoughts are with his wife Cathy and their three children, who have lost a husband and father much too early in life," chairman Jock Hobbs said. "On behalf of all the rugby community I would like to extend my deepest sympathies. His loss will be keenly felt by his former teammates and his colleagues in the media. He was an astute commentator whose immense knowledge and wry wit will be greatly missed."
Drake played 12 games for the All Blacks including eight tests. He made his All Blacks debut on a tour to Argentina in 1985 and his Test debut against France in 1986. At the 1987 World Cup he played every match except the opening game against Italy.
A man of great humour who was in his element throwing down a few glasses of red wine with friends, Drake would doubtless have appreciated the way he is described by Gary Whetton, one of the men he so often depended on for that perfect helping shove.
"My brother always used to say that 'John Drake has got the best bum of a front row forward that I've ever had the pleasure to push against'," Alan Whetton said. "He said it was just built for front row stuff. You can't get a better compliment than that."