Martin Taupau has received plenty of praise over the years for his rugby league ability but it's his latest accolade that has the Manly prop smiling.
On Friday night, the University of Technology in Sydney presented Taupau with a 'Full Blue' award which recognises excellence both in sporting endeavours and undergraduate studies.
Taupau enrolled in a Bachelor of Business course at the UTS Business School midway through 2017. The New Zealand Test forward attends the Ultimo campus once a week, mixing his time between lectures and tutorials, with the high demands of training and playing in the NRL.
"It is hard finding that balance of playing and investing time into my studies and my family,'' Taupau said.
"I've just returned from a six-week tour in England with the Kiwis. It was tough in trying to focus on my main goal of playing my best for the Kiwis, but also putting some time aside to refocus on my studies."
For Taupau, the opportunity to attend Ultimo means he can enjoy just being a normal student.
"You do get recognised from time to time as an NRL player, but it is refreshing to just be myself and to just be another student at the uni,'' he said.
"For me, it is a privilege to be in this position I am in now. It is all about setting a good example for my kids and the younger generation."
John Hutchinson, Education, Training, and Employment Manager at the NRL, said the award was fully well deserved.
"Marty has had a huge year representing his Club, Manly Sea Eagles, and his country New Zealand and performed at the highest level on the field,'' Hutchinson said.
"He approaches his studies with the same level of commitment and dedication. The Full Blue award is the highest award the university bestows on elite athletes who are at the top of their game.
"Marty is a thoroughly deserving recipient and the NRL Wellbeing and Education team are proud of his efforts. Marty is a great role model for all in our game."
Taupau also paid credit to his fiancée, Michelle Baillie, saying she had been a stable influence on his playing career, education, and family life. Michelle is the NRL's Community Relations Manager.
"She gives me a lot of clarity with my education in that if everything is good off the field, then it really helps in performing as a rugby league player,'' Taupau said.
"Over the past year, I've gone through some stressful times in preparing for exams. When I came back from the Kiwis tour, I had about a week and a half to prepare for a big exam.
"Michelle's positivity, energy and love really helped me, and thank goodness I passed.
"She is everything to me."
With his playing duties and studies now finished until next year, Taupau is enjoying a well-earned break before returning to Sea Eagles training on December 17 to begin his preparations for the 2019 season.