Marland Yarde discussed his dream of becoming an England footballer with childhood friend Steven Caulker before his strength and power took him down a different route.
As youngsters the pair were on the books at QPR, but while Caulker went on to play for Tottenham and Cardiff and was capped by Roy Hodgson last year, Yarde forged an alternative path to international recognition.
His physical gifts secured him a place at London Irish's academy and last season he made the crucial breakthrough by winning two caps on England's summer tour to Argentina.
"One of my friends growing up was Steven and we were really close at that time," said Yarde.
"We went to similar schools and it was great to see him play for Spurs and then England. I speak to him quite often and he is doing really well.
"We talked about wanting to be professional footballers when we were young."
Yarde attended Whitgift School with former discus thrower Lawrence Okoye, who joined NFL outfit the San Francisco 49ers after competing at London 2012.
The two will catch up when the 49ers face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley on October 27 and Yarde is backing him to be a success in the NFL.
"Lawrence is really excited about his future in the game and working hard to give himself every chance," the 21-year-old said.
"He's driven and I know that after a couple of years of experience in the NFL he can be a very formidable player.
"I've always known he was a pretty genetically fantastic athlete so it's no surprise to me he's out there playing in the NFL."
Yarde's early season form in a struggling Irish team has placed him in pole position to start England's QBE Series against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand on the left wing
The Exiles marked the final day of a self-imposed alcohol ban by dispatching Harlequins, only for their hopes of celebrating in style to be dashed by pressing European concerns.
Yarde has revealed the players introduced a dry opening to the Aviva Premiership in an effort to avoid a repeat of last season's dismal start that left them fighting relegation.
A summer exodus of players and tight budget meant 2013-14 would be a challenging campaign for Irish, but beating Quins to record a second win in five matches made the ban worthwhile.
With their Amlin Challenge Cup clash against Cavalieri Prato looming on Friday, however, they will not be drinking for another week.
"Staying off the drink was important and the guys really bought into it. You can see from the performances that the guys are playing really well," he added.
"We know if we play to the best of our ability we can give any team in the league a really good run for the money and by not drinking we give ourselves the best chance of doing so.
"The ban's over now. It finished on the weekend but we didn't actually go out because we have a short turnaround before our game on Friday against a strong Italian team who will be coming to put down a marker."