Valentine Holmes has been shooting for the stars from the moment he first stepped onto an NRL field back in 2014, but the 24-year-old says the leap in competitiveness he experienced in the USA's National Football League (NFL) brought him back down to earth.
Holmes spent 2019 in the United States as part of the NFL's international program and says the ruthlessness on display was a shock to the system and made him realise the areas of his game he could improve when he returned to rugby league.
"My first few months there, in the first three weeks I had three different roomies because they kept getting cut. It's sad but it's the way it is," he said.
"Everyone carries on like it's a normal day the next day and you get to training and their locker is empty.
"Every Monday they have tryouts, so your position is always up for grabs.
"I liked the challenge of it. It brought me back down a bit and it's good because the guys over there didn't know who I was so I could just walk around and be myself and do whatever I want, go to a normal cafe and not get looked at or stared at."
Holmes was picked up by the New York Jets and played four pre-season games but did not get the chance to run out for a regular-season NFL game.
Although the physicality of the training was different, Holmes said he learnt the most about himself in classroom meetings that lasted up to four hours each day.
He said the first few weeks was a "mental blur" and the entire experience forced him to grow up.
"I learnt a lot mentally and as a person," he said. "I feel more mature as a person. Those guys are on a bigger scale. We're on a decent scale here but they are worldwide.
"To be able to mix it with those guys was pretty cool. How they prepare and how they train, it's something that I've brought back with me.
"Mentally I don't know how they do it, because it's very cutthroat. They know they have to pay attention, they have to know what they're doing on the field or otherwise they will get rid of you and get someone else in."
Holmes will make his official return to the NRL in the Cowboys' clash with Brisbane at the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville on March 13.