Jason Knight has had quite a 2019.
The midfielder played a prominent role as the Rams' Under-18s made history by becoming Premier League National Champions in early May.
In the months since then, the career of the Academy graduate has kicked on at a considerable rate.
The 18-year-old was named on the first-team substitutes bench for the first time in the Play-Off Semi Final Second Leg win over Leeds United at Elland Road in mid-May, following some impressive showings for not only the Under-18s but also the Rams’ Under-23s.
As Derby reached Wembley, coming back from 2-0 down on aggregate to win 4-3, Knight was part of the celebrations which will live long in the memory.
Just under a fortnight later, he was also an unused substitute in the Play-Off Final against Aston Villa.
A change of manager, as Frank Lampard departed for Chelsea, saw Phillip Cocu take charge.
A manager with a track record of developing young talent, Knight was immediately part of Cocu’s pre-season plans, travelling to Florida and playing in a number of friendly fixtures.
He was handed his professional debut by the manager on the opening day of the season as he came on as a late substitute in the 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town and his full league bow followed soon afterwards against West Bromwich Albion at Pride Park Stadium.
Fast forward to the end of the year and the youngster has made 14 appearances in all competitions, including seven starts, and he is enjoying every second of it.
He has also been named in the starting XI for the Rams’ last three Sky Bet Championship fixtures and has grasped the opportunity to impress.
The year has also seen Knight capped at Under-21 level for the Republic of Ireland, having previously gained honours at various youth levels and was named as the FAI Under-16 International Player of the Year for 2017.
Knight, however, is remaining as grounded as ever and he is keen to repay the faith shown in him by Cocu and his staff, who has already handed four first-team debuts to Academy players this term.
Speaking in a special RamsTV Player Focus, Knight said: “The manager has been great with me from the first day of pre-season in Florida.
“He has worked really hard with all of us and especially the young players to try and develop us.
“I think also he has shown a lot of trust, putting us on in games when I suppose some managers wouldn’t.
“I think I will be a better player for the experiences I’ve had and it’s always drilled into us to work hard and the chances will come.”
Reflecting on his call-up to the first-team at the end of last season, he added: “It was a big surprise as I was back home in Ireland.
“I got a phone call the day after I got home that I needed to fly over to Leeds. I didn’t know if I was going to be in the stands or with the players, but I was excited.
“It was a special moment and a special month but looking back on it I wanted to improve on it.”
Knight originally came to the attention of the Rams’ Academy scouts as a 14-year-old back home in Ireland.
He caught the eye with his performances and, within a short period of time, he had committed to beginning a scholarship at the start of the 2017/18 campaign.
Moving over from Dublin was naturally going to be a big challenge, but he feels he has adapted to life away from home fairly well.
He said: “I was 14 when there was first interest from Derby. I was playing for my county in an inter-county tournament in Dublin and one of the scouts saw me out there.
“I came over for a trial that year and a few weeks later I signed for the club.
“At that age, I came over a few times a season but when I became a full-time scholar, I was away from home permanently. After a while you get used to it and it becomes normal.”
His two years as a scholar were rounded off in the best possible fashion back in May.
Derby’s Under-18s impressed as they were crowned as the Under-18 Premier League North winners, but they didn’t stop there.
They defeated Arsenal, the winners of the South division, 5-2 at Pride Park Stadium in the National Final with a superb display.
That success has led to the Under-18s competing in the UEFA Youth League this season and they face a mouth-watering knock-out tie against German giants Borussia Dortmund in February.
Looking back on the 2018/19 campaign for the Under-18s, Knight said: “Last season’s group was a great group, a special one to be honest.
“Playing together for so long made for a really good environment and platform to go on and play.
“We deserved what we got last year. I still talk to all the Academy staff a lot; Darren Wassall, Pat Lyons, Craig Short, Justin Walker and Adam Robinson.
“They keep giving advice to help improve you, which is how it should be. I know I need to improve and you can always do that.”