He grew to become a viral Popeyes meme. Now he sponsors the restaurant.


Almost a decade in the past, Dieunerst Collin was having fun with “Tremendous Buddies,” a youngsters’s film that includes speaking canine, together with his mother at their residence in East Orange, N.J. Then his sister texted with some information: A video of him had gone viral.

After seeing the clip displaying him obtrusive at a videographer at Popeyes, Collin burst into tears. The meme, which originated as a six-second Vine video, was crammed with viewers’ razzing feedback concerning the 9-year-old, and Collin’s classmates later made him the butt of their jokes.

Collin has come to phrases with the meme in recent times as he has developed one other id by way of soccer, which he performs at Division II Lake Erie Faculty in Ohio. This month, the 18-year-old used the meme’s recognition to signal a sponsorship cope with Popeyes that can connect his identify, picture and likeness to ads.

“At first it was actually exhausting,” Collin advised The Washington Publish. “However the household and pals that I had advised me, ‘Hey, that is going to be one thing good. You possibly can actually flip this.’ Part of me now could be pinching himself.”

A Popeyes spokeswoman confirmed the sponsorship deal, including in a press release: “From memes to desires, Dieunerst and Popeyes will grace social media feeds as soon as once more.”

In August 2013, Collin stated his father, Evens, ordered a household rooster meal at a Popeyes in Irvington, N.J. Collin stated he crammed his white cup with candy tea and waited for his household to exit the restrooms. A person, who was recording a video on his cellphone, approached Collin.

The videographer believed Collin appeared just like Lil TerRio, who was fashionable for his dance strikes on Vine earlier than it was shut down in October 2016. Collin didn’t know whether or not the videographer was chatting with him or the individual beside him, he stated, so he appeared on the digital camera and glanced beside him earlier than shifting his eyes towards the digital camera once more. Collin stated he dismissed the encounter as a joke.

Then about three weeks later, his sister, Everlyne, shared the video. Individuals used the brief clip to precise reactions to awkward moments, equivalent to seeing a instructor exterior college or being requested to work weekends. As a fifth-grader, Collin stated classmates nicknamed him “TerRio” as he grew to become well-known for the meme.

Collin stated he felt accepted two years later in center college when he met new pals who had not realized concerning the meme. In highschool, Collin stated, soccer helped him kind his id and discover belonging. Collin’s teammates supplied him with a brand new nickname, “Killer Whale,” for his blocking on the offensive line.

“Individuals started to know who I actually was,” Collin stated.

When Collin’s highschool coach, Rae Oliver, realized concerning the meme, he stated he invited Collin into his workplace. Though he typically internalized his feelings, Collin stated, he defined his difficulties overcoming bullying. Oliver stated he noticed an opportunity for Collin to remodel the meme right into a advertising and marketing alternative.

After East Orange Campus won a football championship in December 2021, Collin posed for an image with the trophy whereas trying sideways to imitate the meme. When an influencer requested Collin what he would do after successful, Oliver stated Collin responded: “Man, I would like some rooster.”

At Lake Erie Faculty in Painesville, Ohio, coaches realized concerning the meme after they started recruiting Collin in 2021. When Collin committed to the small faculty in February 2022, phrase of the brand new classmate unfold throughout the coed physique.

“I don’t suppose we bargained for the sunshine that Dieunerst was,” Lake Erie Coach Demir “D.J.” Boldin stated. “After we actually obtained to know him, he’s one of many best children, like, ever.”

Collin, who’s 6-foot-1 and 330-pounds, redshirted within the fall to develop. Round January, sports personalities throughout social media started connecting Collin to the well-known meme. Collin, who research communications, tagged Popeyes in a Jan. 8 Instagram put up by which he wrote he was prepared to speak enterprise.

Inside a day, Collin stated Popeyes responded. He danced throughout his dorm after settling a deal, and Popeyes designed a billboard that includes Collin in Newark.

He’s now Lake Erie’s first soccer participant to obtain a paid sponsorship deal, Boldin stated. Collin declined to reveal his wage however stated, “It’s so much.”

“He’s accepting of who he’s,” Oliver stated. “He’s been capable of take the ability from the adverse facet of it and switch that ache into revenue.”

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