YOU cannot blame Brian McDermott for thinking it, but he did not feel Rob Burrow could ever be a professional rugby league player.
Admittedly, for someone who has six Grand Final wins and is about to become only the 12th player to ever make 400 appearances for Leeds, it seems a little absurd.
But current Leeds coach McDermott recollects how his first sighting of the scrum-half in 2001 left him wondering how someone so diminutive could ever cope with the demands.
The contrast was obvious; McDermott, a towering prop and former Royal Marine against someone who stood at just five foot, five inches tall and so blatantly sleight.
“I remember Rob debuting many years ago,” he said, ahead of the 31-year-old’s latest milestone, which comes at Bradford Bulls tonight.
“I, along with quite a few people, thought there’s no way he could play – he would have to do something special.
“I think that’s what you say about most kids coming through now; if they are going to be that stature, you have to do something very special to be able to forge a career, the same as fellas who are overweight or some long, skinny lads or some slow, fat kid.
“You say maybe you could play, but you have to be something special as well. Rob has certainly been that; he has been very special.
“Credit to him. It’s massive feat and he has got a fair few more games left in him as well.”
Having twice earned the coveted Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match in those Grand Final wins, Burrow has lost none of his trademark acceleration and trickery, illustrated by a typical weaving try against Wakefield last week.
McDermott added: “I think you have got to give credit to (physio) Andy Barker and (conditioner) Jason Davidson and the physios before, such as Dave O’Sullivan.
“Rob has had a couple of issues with his knees over the last three or four seasons and everyone was talking about how that would probably be the end of his speed, but his speed doesn’t seem to have diminished too much.
“Jason handles the fellas incredibly well.
“There is an art in dealing with older players and with older players who have done and achieved so much, to be able to keep them enthused.
“Jason has a knack with the older players and Rob certainly benefits from Jason’s expertise.”
Bradford coach Francis Cummins will be hoping his former Leeds team-mate does not inflict any of his customary damage at Odsal this evening.
“The first time I saw him he was about 14 and half the size he is now,” he recalled.
“You never thought Rob would get that many games in the first grade.
“But he’s a legend of the Leeds club and will be known as such for a long, long time.”
However, it is not just Burrow’s attacking skills that have marked him out as one of the finest players of his generation.
When asked if, pound for pound, he is the toughest player in the game, Cummins replied: “I think so.
“And he’s probably the strongest as well, pound for pound.
“These little fellas get hit around the head more often than not but he keeps on going and has the heart of a lion.
“He has proved that many times over the last 10 years.”