One of the first signs that Chris Paterson might go a long way came when he quit a PE degree he was undertaking at Moray House to focus on becoming a full-time rugby professional.
To some, suspending a course which still had 12 months to run might have seemed reckless but, so far as the 21-year-old Paterson was concerned, it was a declaration of intent.
The coach who signed him for Edinburgh in season 1999-2000, Ian Rankin, has recalled: “Perversely it was me, the coach, who was urging caution about giving up studies at that stage when some might have thought I would be pulling out all the stops to convince him to get on board full-time!”
As Rankin also acknowledged, things worked out spectacularly well after a gamble, nevertheless: “The only people going into pro rugby before him were individuals who had been involved in the amateur days and saw the chance to try something new, a bit of icing in the sporting cake, with up to 90 per cent of their time in rugby already gone. So things were different back then before Chris came along and broke the mould by being absolutely determined to back full-time pro rugby to the extent of risking his future livelihood. Chris was the first generation of players to see rugby as a career option in its own right.”
In fact, Paterson’s first taste of professional rugby came a season before signing for Edinburgh when, on August 28, 1998, he turned out as a substitute for Glasgow Caledonians against Ulster in Belfast.
If that 1998-99 season started brightly it ended healthily, too, as Paterson, again operating at stand off, steered Gala to an 8-3 Scottish Cup triumph over Kelso at Murrayfield on April 24.
Paterson scored all Gala’s points with a try and drop goal to elicit warm praise from Scottish rugby legend and former Kelso star, John Jeffrey, who said: “Chris is a good player without a doubt. He is a good talent. I hope he stays here (in Scotland) and they nurse him.”
Northampton and Newcastle were reported as being keen to sign Paterson before he signed for Edinburgh.
Paterson eventually took a season out from Edinburgh to join Gloucester for the 2007-08 season having made his mark at the highest level in 2003 when his try against South Africa at Kings Park, Durban, in a 25-29 Scottish defeat, was declared “best of the season” by the international governing body.
While that was a team effort, Paterson’s 49-metre drop goal against the host Wallabies in the World Cup that year also caught the eye and by now accolades were flying thick and fast . . .all except recognition in the form of a Lions tour.
In total, 109 Scotland caps came Chris’s way, including three wins over England and it could have been more but for a split kidney two years ago in Wales on the day of his 100th cap [pictured below] which he recalled, saying: “Jonathan Thomas’ knee caught me just under my ribs at my kidney. Because of the occasion I felt I couldn’t go off and had to keep going. After the penalty kick to us that followed, the adrenalin was fading, pain had set in and there was no running this injury off like some I’d previously suffered. I was on my way to hospital.
“It was while in the Accident and Emergency unit that a paramedic popped his head round the door and asked if I wanted to know the result [from the game] ... it was only when my wife and parents arrived that I got a clearer picture of what had occurred.”
Paterson returned to the international scene and no prouder Scot ever took the field.
Witness how he coped with being in the home changing room ast Twickenham when he turned out for the Northern Hemisphere against the Southern Hemisphere in a match to raise funds for victims of the Asian Tsunami:
“Having been allocated the home changing room I did feel obliged to wear my Scotland socks underneath my kit just to remind myself who I was also representing!” he said.
From day one, none of us privileged to watch him never had any doubt!