Sam Whitelock, the Crusaders captain likely to be named All Blacks skipper this morning, was nearly lost to rugby several years ago when offered an opportunity to play basketball in the United States.
The 2.12m lock - one of the most skilful forwards in New Zealand and a key leader for his defending champion Super Rugby franchise - thought hard about making the move as he neared his 20s but in the end decided it wasn't for him.
Now 29, he has played 96 tests for the All Blacks, including important roles in two World Cups, and is favoured to be named as Kieran Read's replacement as captain for next month's three-test series against France and beyond.
His father, Braeden, said: "When he was 17 or 18 [Sam] had the opportunity to go to the United States to play basketball. He thought long and hard about it and the impact it would have on his rugby.
"The compromise was that he went to Australia and played basketball there for six months. If he hadn't had the maturity to think through things, he could have been lost to rugby. I think it was a turning point for him."
Despite the fling with hoops, rugby courses through the Whitelocks' veins - from grandfather Nelson Dalzell, who played tests in the 1950s after suffering serious injury during World War II, to siblings George (who played a test at flanker), Luke (an All Black loose forward), and Adam (a former New Zealand sevens player).
Sam, last year's New Zealand Player of the Year, led the Crusaders to their first title in nine years in 2017.
In November, he skippered the All Blacks for the first time - in the end of year test against Wales in Cardiff.
The importance of a balanced life away from rugby is also not lost on the hulking second-rower.
He has completed a degree (in agriculture at Lincoln University), and understands how sport can be an initiator of positive change.
Whitelock was distraught when great mate and All Blacks' logistics manager Kevin "Chalky" Carr died of pancreatic cancer this year.
"Chalky's illness really affected Samuel," Braeden said. "He has always been balanced in his life. He loves his rugby, but when he went to university, he fully participated in university life.
"Now he has a family, he loves spending time with them, and as a result of all of this, he is able to put rugby into a wider perspective."
For Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, Whitelock is the perfect leader and role model.
"He is extremely calm and very clear in delivering his message," Robertson said. "As well, he relates to everyone regardless of their background or experience."
Like Read and Richie McCaw before him, Whitelock is happy to make final decisions but he is inclusive in his style of leadership, as is the modern way.
"He's been great for us," Robertson said. "If he gets the opportunity to again be the All Blacks captain, he certainly won't let anyone down."