Austin Stowell was never the most popular kid in his class at Berlin High School according to one of his best friends, Tyler Catlin.
He was unassuming and never tried to grab the attention.
He played football and tennis but a terrible knee injury forced him to miss his senior football season.
That injury landed him in the senior class play, "You Can't Take It With You."
In the crowd that night was a member of the UConn Theater Dept. faculty and Stowell was offered a scholarship to go to UConn, not as an athlete, but an actor.
Fast forward eight years and Stowell has received the biggest break of his young acting career.
On Sept. 23, the movie "Dolphin Tale" will be released. Stowell has a meaty part in the film which also features Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristofferson.
Based on true events "Dolphin Tale" is a family film about Winter, a young dolphin who loses her tail in a crab trap and Sawyer, the introverted, 11-year old boy who befriends her. Sawyer meets the rescued dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a marine rehabilitation center where she lives. Sawyer rallies friends and family alike to save Winter by convincing a pioneering doctor to create a unique prosthetic attachment to restore the dolphin’s ability to swim. Winter the dolphin will play herself in the movie.
"I read for auditions 10 to 15 times a week and I read for this movie a long time ago," Stowell said from Los Angeles. "I got a call from my agent and he said they wanted to see me again. I had to go to my computer to see what the role was and who I was playing. It was great. They just wanted to make sure I was a good guy and we just talked for a while."
Stowell plays Kyle Connellan, a swimmer aspiring to make the U.S. Olympic team. He joins the military and is paralyzed on one side of his body from an IED explosion.
When he returns, his doctor, played by Morgan Freeman, introduces him to an introverted boy, Sawyer. Together they discover how working with a dolphin that has lost its tale can help them become whole.
The movie is from the Producers of "The Blind Side."
"Most of my scenes are with Morgan Freeman," Stowell said. "I was more than a little nervous before we started shooting but he was great. He is really very much like most of the characters he plays, very down to earth and soft spoken. He was amazing. He's an icon but he always had something nice to say to me or a tip for me."
Stowell said that like "The Blind Side" people will love this movie.
"It's about a doctor who wouldn't give up and it shows you no matter the circumstance there is always hope," said Stowell, now 26. "Harry Connick Jr., who I love, he's the man, takes care of the dolphin and is told to give up numerous times. But he just won't give up. It just shows you that there is no problem too big. When we were growing up it was 'Free Willy.' I think this movie can be that 'Free Willy' of its generation."
The tale is based on a true story and the dolphin, Winter, can actually be seen in the aquarium he calls home in Clearwater, Florida.
"We shot right there and it took weeks to get the dolphin used to the cameras and lights," Stowell said. "I am supposed to be an Olympic quality swimmer so I was in the water a lot for training and then had to learn to walk correctly after the injury. I would swim with my legs tied together to get the feeling of swimming with only my arms."
While this movie could be Stowell's big break, after acting in "The Secret Life of an American Teenager," he is not only looking for the next important job.
"You don’t only look for the next big gig but the next one after the next one," he said. "My agent tells me we want to keep the dial moving forward, nothing that would make it go backwards. I'm pretty picky and I can be a little bit right now. I have been lucky to have the two TV series and some great guest spots on 'NCIS' and '90210' so I can be a little picky. The last time I was in town I talked to the students at McGee and my message was pretty simple. If you think you've done enough, do some more."
While Stowell said he does not have a girlfriend, he has made a deal with one of his best friends from high school to take her to his first big red carpet event. That deal was made a long time ago but this movie will likely be that event. So will Austin Stowell take long-time friend Amy Bordonaro to the red carpet premiere?
"She has been a huge support for me," Stowell said. "She always told me I was going to make it and so we made the deal. And she has always reminded me of it every time I got a great job. We'll see how it works out, ha-ha."
Stowell, who lives with his two brothers - Daniel, 31, a 10-year acting veteran on Broadway, and Ryan, 29, who works in production and has worked for Happy Madison, run by Adam Sandler. His mother, Elizabeth lives in
Rocky Hill, while his dad Robert, lives in Florida.
So what would his friends back in Berlin say about Austin Stowell making it to the big-time?
"That's a good question," he said. "Usually when I talk to them or hang out with my brothers they just make fun of me and that keeps me pretty grounded. I would hope that they are happy for me and know that I'm doing what I love to do. If they were happy for me that would be great. I have a pretty tight inner circle of friends and it's hard to get in. I'm really focused on my career right now and I'm excited about where it is going."