Simon Cowell sure knows how to pick 'em! The notoriously cantankerous and blunt 'X Factor' judge is currently gloating over his discovery of One Direction. He's especially impressed with the development of Zayn Malik, who, according to Facebook, is the biggest heartthrob in the group (he has the most individual "likes"!).

Speaking of 1D's performance on the U.S. version of 'X Factor,' Cowell said he was thrilled with how far they've come, and that Zayn showed the most growth as an artist. "He was the shy one," Simon said. "In fact, he nearly didn't make it on one of the boot camp days."

Say what?! Back during Zayn's early 'X Factor' days, the now-tattooed bad boy of the group was so bashful that he actually left the set a few times. A word to the wise? If you're painfully shy, auditioning for a TV show sort of forces you out of that really quickly. And so does a kick in the butt from good old SiCo.

"I had to drag him from the back of the auditorium and say, 'You are going to do this,' because he was about to walk out, he was so shy," Cowell revealed. "To see him now, it's a big difference."

Directioners everywhere may want to send Simon a thank you note. 1D wouldn't be 1D without Zayn!

Watch Zayn Malik's 'X Factor U.K.' Audition