Swindon Town midfielder Ben Gladwin is a "shining example" that talent can develop through non-league football, says manager Mark Cooper.
Gladwin, 22, was playing part-time for Southern League club Marlow, and also working as a removals man, before being picked up by Swindon last summer.
He has since played 32 games, scoring twice this term, and signed a new two-and-a-half year deal on Tuesday.
"We took a gamble on him," Cooper told BBC Wiltshire.
"It shows you they are out there - young players who have slipped through the net.
"Although they're maybe deemed not good enough at a certain age, they can come back. Ben's a shining example of that."
Berkshire-born Gladwin came through Reading's academy system, but was released at the age of 14 because he was deemed too small.
Now standing 6ft 3ins tall, the versatile midfielder has become a first-team asset for Cooper's Swindon, who are second in the League One table and on a run of five straight league wins.
Gladwin's new deal until 2017 was confirmed after he set up two goals in Town's 3-0 win over Notts County.
"I've said on record before he's nearly always the best player in training," added Cooper.
"Hopefully now we've started to see the transition onto the big stage. He's certainly starting to light up games.
"With where we are trying to go, and how we are trying to structure the club, it was important we signed him and got him on board for a couple more years."