Mason Cox has credited a heartfelt discussion with Collingwood coach Craig McRae with turning around an AFL career he believed was about to expire.
The 31-year-old American, who gained Australian citizenship this year, was already planning for life after football when a poor game against the Brisbane Lions in round five led to him being dropped to the reserves.
But a subsequent meeting with mentor McRae over dinner put all the cards on the table and ultimately gave Cox the confidence to fight for his place in the team.
"We sat down and we talked about a few different things from that dinner and then another meeting at the club about where the future lied," Cox told reporters on Wednesday.
"I had to go back and play in the twos and get back into form to get where I'm at today.
"I think that up-front and honest conversation, with the relationship we have, can be credited for me being able to play out the rest of this year.
"For him to be able to give me a bit of clarity on where he saw the future lying, I got a bit of confidence from that."
McRae revealed his message to Cox had been a simple one.
"I just was real with him and said we're going to play youth before him," McRae said on SEN radio.
"We played Aiden Begg for a couple of weeks and it was a bit hard for him (Cox) to take, but I got him over and was just honest with him on where he stood.
"Credit to him, he went back and got to work and got another opportunity and hasn't looked back."
Cox has since been an important contributor in Collingwood's march deep into September.
The 211cm giant returned to the Magpies' line-up in round 10 and has featured in each of their last 15 games heading into Saturday's preliminary final against Sydney.
Cox has formed a strong ruck-forward combination with Darcy Cameron in the absence of injured teammate Brodie Grundy, and triggered a new contract for next season in the process.
It means Cox can put on hold his plans to enter the media and promote the AFL internationally - at least for one more year.
The short-term focus is on the battle with the Swans at the SCG, where Collingwood were beaten by 27 points in round 22.
Several Magpies players battled illness that week and explosive midfielder Jordan De Goey missed out through injury.
"It was kind of a crazy week when we went up to Sydney (last time) with a lot of sickness and everything else," Cox said.
"Hopefully we'll be really ready to go and I think Jordy's been cleared, so that's always a really big in for us, but we're definitely excited."
Magpies fan-favourite Cox, who has worn prescription goggles during games this season because of his history of eye injuries, was speaking at the launch of Telstra's 5G touch and track system, which is designed to assist visually impaired people follow football.