Jacob Stockdale admits he could not have dreamed of such a successful season after winning the 2018 BBC Sport Northern Ireland Personality of the Year.
The Ireland winger, who was named the Six Nations Player of the Championship for his efforts during the Grand Slam, got the nod over 2017 winner Jonathan Rea, the superbike rider.
Stockdale made his international debut in June 2017, and had established himself as first choice for his country by the time the Championship rolled around.
He made an immediate impression, with a stunning seven tries as Ireland claimed their third Grand Slam.
And the 22-year-old, who also scored the only try in Ireland’s historic win over the All Blacks in November, is still coming to terms with how fast his rise has been at international level.
“It’s massive honour and unexpected,” said Stockdale of his BBC NI award.
“I’m incredibly thankful for getting picked. It’s been a very fast-moving year from start to finish but it’s been really, really enjoyable.
“There have been a lot of big games in there that I feel really lucky to have been a part of.
“When I was setting out my goals for the season, I was just thinking in terms of maybe squeezing on to the bench.
“But obviously a few things went my way and I managed to start. Then, it was a matter of trying to play as well as I could in each game and hang on to the jersey for the next game.”
Stockdale has also been in fine form for Ulster, and will be keen to play a leading role as Joe Schmidt’s side look to defend their Guinness Six Nations title in 2019.
Ireland open their campaign at home to England on Saturday February 2, with the Championship getting underway the previous day when France host Wales.