He has captained England's Under-21 team and been cited as a future Villa skipper by JLloyd Samuel but Liam Ridgewell hasn't always been the imposing figure he is now.
As recently as three years ago he was six inches smaller than now and would probably have had sand kicked in his face.
But an amazing growth spurt, which is a family trait, means he is more likely to be an Adonis on the beach these days.
The king-size version of Villa?s strapping centre-half celebrated his status as a first-team regular by putting pen to paper yesterday on a new deal that will tie him to the club until 2009.
He has figured in eight of Villa?s games this season and has grabbed the opportunity presented to him by Martin Laursen?s knee injury.
Villa, languishing just above the relegation zone, face a visit to their nemesis in eight days? time. Failure to beat Birmingham City for the seventh occasion since the Blues returned to the Premiership would leave Villa fans apoplectic.
Ridgewell has the perfect opportunity to put his newfound physique to the test when he squares up to Emile Heskey, who has the build of a heavyweight boxer.
But Ridgewell is well aware that he will need to keep a lid on the fiery temper that caused his dismissal along with Jonathan Greening during Villa?s most recent derby, against Albion in April.
Ridgewell said: ?If I am selected to play then I won?t be worrying about what has happened before as I will be to busy concentrating on the game.
?I can?t get involved like I did against Albion and it was a lesson that I have learned. The manager and Roy Aitken had a chat with me and it is all part of my learning process.?
Ridgewell has also set sights set on developing his international career despite being ruled out of the Under-21 squad for the final round of European Championship qualifying games with a knee injury. His place went to Curtis Davies.
?Peter [Taylor, the England under-21 manager] said the door is always open to the main squad and players such as Darren Bent and Kieran Richardson have made the jump recently.
?I?ve got my targets and I?ve had a taste of international football with the Under-21 side. It would be nice to think that if I can establish myself in the Villa side I can push on to the seniors.
?A few of the other lads have stepped up and although I know it?s going to be difficult with the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson, I want to see if I can take it a step further and push through.? The confident, vociferous Ridgewell has already made his mark inside the Villa dressing-room.
He looked to be frozen out of the picture as Laursen and Gary Cahill jumped ahead of him in the race to partner Olof Mellberg.
And David O?Leary has made no secret of his intention to add another centre-half to his squad but Ridgewell has ploughed on regardless and his character has shone through during Villa?s troubled start.
However, Ridgewell is used to fighting against the odds. His physical development took place later than most of his contemporaries,
?I was small for my age and that was why I was moved out of my original midfield role,? he said. ?I was playing in an Under- 19s game against Middlesbrough and Tony McAndrew told me to play as a left-sided centre-half as part of a trio.
?It was quite a step up for me, I was only 15 and I was playing for the Under-19s at the time.
?I think he took me out of the way so I didn?t get clattered!
?Both of my elder brothers, Gavin and Clark, had their growth spurts later in life and my dad told me to bide my time, that I would get bigger, but I didn?t believe him.
?I reckon I?ve grown four inches in the past three years and when I go on to internet sites to look at my statistics, they are struggling to keep up I?m growing so quickly!?