Richie Gray has always been noticeable on a rugby pitch, his rawboned physique adorned by a mane of flaxen blond hair has resulted in the Scotland lock receiving plenty of attention - good and bad.
The 2.07-meter (6-foot-9) Gray was infamously described as "slow, cumbersome and like Bambi on ice" by former England center and TV pundit Jeremy Guscott on the eve of Scotland's Six Nations match at France in February.
That was the cue for an all-action display in a hard-fought loss at the Stade de France - running freely with ball in hand, thundering into rucks and skittling defenders - so much so that the French crowd cheered for Gray as one of their own.
"It was great and was definitely my best performance yet, but it might never have happened," Gray told The Scotsman newspaper. "It was one of those days where things happened for me. The result didn't go our way and I was disappointed that we lost, but personally it was a step up from me. There was a lot more interest from the media, here and abroad."
At 22, yet weighing nearly 130 kilograms, Gray is the youngest member of an experienced Scotland squad for the World Cup in New Zealand. With captain Alastair Kellock and the hard-nosed Nathan Hines also playing in his position, he is taken nothing for granted, especially considering he has just 12 Test caps and is only in his third full season of professional rugby.
But that hasn't stopped others from heaping superlatives on Gray, including one of his former coaches in John Beattie, a former Scotland and British and Lions forward.
"Of all the young players I've seen come up through the game, he's the one who has everything," Beattie was quoted as saying. "He loves the rough stuff - he's a very tough boy."
Having played football until his early teenage years, Gray took up rugby and represented Scotland with distinction from under-17 through to under-20 levels to catch the eye of senior coach Andy Robinson.
Gray played for Scotland's second-string team in a resounding win over Tonga in November 2010 before winning his first test cap as a substitute against France in the Six Nations three months later.
His first international start doesn't evoke the most nostalgic of memories, a 49-3 thrashing by New Zealand at Murrayfield in the 2010 autumn series a stark reminder of the gap between Scotland and the summit of world rugby.
Happily, redemption came only a week later with a famous victory over defending world champion South Africa.
"It was very pleasing to get in against New Zealand," Gray said. "But I was absolutely devastated at the end. I think the biggest shock was just that I felt, and the whole squad felt, very confident. It was great though to have South Africa the next week. That gave us all a chance to make amends straight away and it definitely stands out as great highlight of my career so far.
"The rain and Victor Matfield are the two big memories I have of that, and coming off to cheers around Murrayfield. That was special."
That same could be said of Gray's talent. With even Guscott having changed his opinion of him, the lock must be doing something right.
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