PFA Scotland player of the year award nominee Greg Stewart feared his chance of being a full-time footballer had passed him by less than two years ago.
The 25-year-old has been voted among the top four players in Scotland in his first season in the full-time game.
"There was a point I thought maybe my chance had gone," said Stewart, who signed for promoted Dundee from Cowdenbeath last summer.
"But I just kept working hard and scored a few goals last season."
Stewart hit the net 16 times for Cowdenbeath in the Championship last term, attracting the attention of Paul Hartley at champions Dundee.
"Paul took a chance on me in the summer and hopefully I have repaid him," said the striker.
|Dundee manager Paul Hartley|
|"It's his first season as a full time football player, but I think he's been absolutely outstanding in his overall play. Not just his goals, he's been a real team player also, but his individual brilliance at times has been outstanding."|
Stewart, whose side have clinched a top-six finish this season, is joined on the awards shortlist by Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney and Celtic pair Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Johansen.
And the player who was working full-time at Grangemouth oil refinery last season while playing part-time football admitted that he found it "a wee bit surreal" to be in such company.
"I was just hoping to break into the team," he said. "Last season, I was getting up for my work at six o'clock in the morning, Monday to Friday, and having to rush home at four o'clock to get something to eat and jump back out the door on a Tuesday and Thursday night to make training.
"So you weren't really getting much rest and I've got a wee one as well which I didn't see much of.
"So, when I got the chance to become a full-time footballer, I grabbed it with both hands."