(CNN)Just over a year ago, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was nominated for the job of German President. "My joy at the task is great," he said in an acceptance speech in Berlin.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Can Germany's 'anti-Trump' end Merkel's political crisis?
But not everyone was happy.
Some doom-mongers grumbled that Steinmeier was much too important for him to be "consigned to the periphery of power."
After all, as Torben Luetjen and Lars Geiges wrote in their biography of Steinmeier, German presidents "don't really have to make many decisions."
That all changed on Monday.
After coalition talks to form a new government unexpectedly collapsed late on Sunday, dealing a blow to longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel, it was President Steinmeier -- a man more accustomed to unveiling monuments than dirtying his hands with parliamentary politics -- who was given the unenviable task of restoring order.
This week he's meeting with five party leaders, urging them to restart talks -- or begin new ones.
If they refuse, Steinmeier is the man who could set the country on a complicated path to new elections -- unprecedented in post-war German history.
"Courage is the lifeblood of democracy," he said in his first speech as President in March this year. He'll need plenty of that in the days and weeks ahead.
So who is Frank-Walter Steinmeier?
Steinmeier's journey from a working-class home in northwest Germany -- his father was a carpenter and his mother a factory worker -- to the office of the President is a remarkable one.
But he's otherwise unremarkable, according to Luetjen. "There's nothing extraordinary about him ... He's usually described as someone rather dull."
Steinmeier's first foray into politics came in 1991 when he took a job with Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder -- state president at the time and later German Chancellor -- and was soon running his office.