Although we all know the story of the Netziv, does anyone know any other stories of relatively famous Jewish personalizes who had a difficult time learning Torah in the beginning? I remember hearing Rabbi Orlofsky say in a shiur a long time ago that Rav Elchonon was on the verge of leaving learning because it was too difficult at first.
When I was in Ner Israel, I heard the following story several times from HaRav Sheftl Neuberger, which he remembered from his childhood:
There was a doctor who lived in Baltimore who had grown up in Europe, and had left observance. However, he still had a positive feeling towards Torah-observant Jews, and he offered his services to the Yeshiva and was available when needed.
When Rav Elchonon Wasserman came to Baltimore in 1938, he visited Ner Israel, and this doctor was there. The entire Yeshiva poured out to meet the car as it approached the front drive of the Yeshiva, and they danced the car all the way to where it parked. Seeing the incredible display of honor being heaped upon Rav Elchonon, the doctor said to HaRav Naftali Neuberger that it didn't make any sense. "I went to cheder with Elchonon Wasserman, and he was at best average." He couldn't believe, knowing his childhood abilities, that R' Elchonon was a Gadol HaDor.
(R' Sheftel always told this story in the context of how there are some Gedolim who were born geniuses, and some who achieved it through incredible drive and effort.)
Perhaps Making of a Gadol is what you’re looking for. It discusses what you’ve mentioned. Although banned properly, it can probably be found at high prices on eBay, or for free with the proper search queries at Google.