He became a viral Popeyes meme. Now he sponsors the restaurant.

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Virtually a ten years ago, Dieunerst Collin was taking pleasure in “Super Buddies,” a children’s motion picture featuring talking puppies, with his mother at their house in East Orange, N.J. Then his sister texted with some information: A video of him experienced absent viral.

Immediately after seeing the clip displaying him glaring at a videographer at Popeyes, Collin burst into tears. The meme, which originated as a 6-2nd Vine video clip, was loaded with viewers’ razzing comments about the 9-year-old, and Collin’s classmates afterwards created him the butt of their jokes.

Collin has occur to phrases with the meme in recent many years as he has created a further identification as a result of soccer, which he performs at Division II Lake Erie School in Ohio. This thirty day period, the 18-calendar year-previous used the meme’s popularity to sign a sponsorship offer with Popeyes that will connect his identify, image and likeness to commercials.

“At initially it was truly hard,” Collin explained to The Washington Write-up. “But the loved ones and buddies that I experienced advised me, ‘Hey, this is heading to be a thing very good. You can actually flip this.’ A aspect of me now is pinching himself.”

A Popeyes spokeswoman confirmed the sponsorship offer, adding in a statement: “From memes to desires, Dieunerst and Popeyes will grace social media feeds at the time all over again.”

In August 2013, Collin claimed his father, Evens, purchased a household rooster meal at a Popeyes in Irvington, N.J. Collin reported he stuffed his white cup with sweet tea and waited for his family members to exit the restrooms. A man, who was recording a video on his mobile phone, approached Collin.

The videographer believed Collin appeared identical to Lil TerRio, who was popular for his dance moves on Vine prior to it was shut down in Oct 2016. Collin did not know whether the videographer was talking to him or the individual beside him, he explained, so he looked at the camera and glanced beside him in advance of shifting his eyes toward the camera again. Collin stated he dismissed the face as a joke.

Then about three months afterwards, his sister, Everlyne, shared the movie. Persons made use of the brief clip to express reactions to awkward times, these kinds of as viewing a trainer exterior school or currently being asked to work weekends. As a fifth-grader, Collin reported classmates nicknamed him “TerRio” as he grew to become very well-regarded for the meme.

Collin explained he felt approved two yrs later in middle school when he satisfied new good friends who experienced not uncovered about the meme. In higher university, Collin said, football assisted him type his identity and locate belonging. Collin’s teammates presented him with a new nickname, “Killer Whale,” for his blocking on the offensive line.

“People began to know who I really was,” Collin explained.

When Collin’s superior faculty coach, Rae Oliver, acquired about the meme, he claimed he invited Collin into his business. Even though he normally internalized his thoughts, Collin claimed, he defined his troubles beating bullying. Oliver stated he observed a chance for Collin to remodel the meme into a internet marketing chance.

Right after East Orange Campus gained a football championship in December 2021, Collin posed for a photo with the trophy when seeking sideways to mimic the meme. When an influencer requested Collin what he would do just after successful, Oliver stated Collin responded: “Man, I want some hen.”

At Lake Erie School in Painesville, Ohio, coaches discovered about the meme when they commenced recruiting Collin in 2021. When Collin fully commited to the tiny school in February 2022, word of the new classmate spread across the university student human body.

“I do not feel we bargained for the gentle that Dieunerst was,” Lake Erie Mentor Demir “D.J.” Boldin mentioned. “After we genuinely obtained to know him, he’s a person of the biggest youngsters, like, at any time.”

Collin, who’s 6-foot-1 and 330-kilos, redshirted in the drop to establish. All over January, athletics personalities across social media began connecting Collin to the popular meme. Collin, who studies communications, tagged Popeyes in a Jan. 8 Instagram submit in which he wrote he was completely ready to talk enterprise.

In a day, Collin mentioned Popeyes responded. He danced throughout his dorm right after settling a deal, and Popeyes developed a billboard that includes Collin in Newark.

He’s now Lake Erie’s initially football participant to obtain a compensated sponsorship offer, Boldin claimed. Collin declined to disclose his wage but claimed, “It’s a great deal.”

“He’s accepting of who he is,” Oliver reported. “He’s been ready to get the energy from the detrimental side of it and flip that ache into income.”