Rotherham United midfielder Will Vaulks was so desperate to make it as a professional footballer that he played for no pay to kick-start his career.
The 23-year-old signed a three-year deal in the summer with the Millers who fought off competition from other Championship sides to pay Falkirk an undisclosed fee for his services.
That was a far cry from 2013 when he left Tranmere Rovers without playing a first-team game and agreed to to forego wages for a spell in return for a chance with the Scottish outfit.
“He is a very hard-working lad who is keen,” said new Rotherham manager Kenny Jackett whose team return to action on Saturday at Derby County after the international break.
“Listening to him talk about leaving Tranmere and going up to Falkirk as a defender/midfielder who went initially to play for nothing as the club were struggling financially is a good, humbling story.”
Vaulks was a big hit in Scotland, where he often played at centre-half, and he was named in the Scottish Championship Team of the Year in 2014, prompting former Millers boss Alan Stubbs to move for him.
He has had a mixed start to his New York Stadium career, beginning with a wonder goal in the 2-2 opening-day draw with Wolves but then finding himself in and out of the starting 11 as he tries to adapt to the pace of the English second tier.
In Jackett’s first game, against Reading at New York, Vaulks was an unused substitute but was picked for the next two, at Ipswich Town, where he played well, and at home to Preston North End when he failed to make an impact.
“I have been impressed by his attitude and feel he has a little bit of everything as a midfield player,” Jackett said. “It will be interesting how he develops.”
The player says he relishes the ‘dirty’ side of the game and likes to bring the combative qualities of a central defender into the middle of the park.
“If he can keep the same attitude, running and fitness, that will be a very good start,” his manager added.
“Being an effective midfield player is not just passing. It is heading, running and tackling, and the best ones can do it all.
“As a player who has played many games in his young career, albeit at a lower level in the back four, it is something he should be able to bring into midfield.”
Meanwhile, Derby, who have started to climb the table since the arrival of Steve McClaren as boss, will be without Cyrus Christie on Saturday as the right-back has suffered a foot injury.
Chris Baird, Jamie Hanson and Ikechi Anya are in the frame to replace him, although the Rams could consider a change of position for centre-back Richard Keogh.
Derby have picked up 10 points under McClaren, with three wins, a draw and one defeat in his five matches in charge.
Former Millers boss Steve Evans has been appointed manager of League Two Mansfield Town.