These days Cameron Smith wishes he had listened more at high school.
But there is one comment that rings in Smith’s ears as he prepares to equal Queensland great Darren Lockyer’s State of Origin record of 36 games.
The 32-year-old Maroons captain will reach the milestone in next week’s Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium – much to a certain high school teacher’s surprise, no doubt.
The first to admit he had never been the biggest or fastest footballer, Smith was still taken aback when his teacher delivered a harsh lesson in class.
“There was never any of my football coaches that said that (he’d never make it) to me,” said Smith who grew up in Logan, south of Brisbane.
“I do remember one lady though, she was my biology teacher at high school.
“I should have been paying more attention (in class), I wish I did now.
“But I was talking to a mate about the weekend footy … and she grabbed me and she told me I should start listening more because I wasn’t going to make a career out of football.
“I still remember that day and I remember thinking ‘I’m going to prove you wrong’ – so I did.”
Smith is so physically unassuming as a footballer that he has been dubbed “The Accountant”.
But Smith believed that may be the key to his remarkable longevity.
He has missed just one Origin game since his 2003 Queensland debut.
“A lot of people look at my body and call me ‘The Accountant’, saying I’m not a real typical body shape for a rugby league player,” Smith said.
“But maybe that’s got something to do with it as well.
“I’ve never been the biggest or the fastest so I’ve had to be a bit quicker between the ears and maybe that’s helped me get around the field and stay in the matches every week.”
His secret is definitely not yoga.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t do a whole lot of yoga or a whole lot of stretching – a lot of trainers out there probably wouldn’t like me to say that,” Smith said.
“I just put it down to training hard and preparing my body physically … (but) there’s no doubt that you need a bit of luck along the way.”
Smith (298) also has Lockyer’s NRL games record of 355 in his sights.
“I think if you ask any football player you don’t play to break records,” he said.
“(But) you all know how brutal Origin is.
“So to be able to equal a guy that I hold in very high regard is a nice achievement.”