He grew to become a meme at age 9. A decade later, this school soccer participant has a take care of Popeyes.


Faculty freshman Dieunerst Collin’s street to web meme fame began with a confused side-eye at a Popeyes in New Jersey.

It was a decade in the past, and the then 9-year-old was in line ready for a household pack of rooster, biscuits and fries on the fast-food chain in Irvington. A stranger pulled out his telephone and began recording Collin, evaluating him to Lil TerRio, a boy who was well-known on social media on the time for his dance strikes.

Dieunerst Collin

Dieunerst Collin, standing earlier than a brand new Popeyes billboard that bears his picture.

Collin, holding a Popeyes lemonade cup, gave the person a sideways look, questioning why he had a digicam in his face. The stranger later posted a clip on Vine, the video-sharing app, the place it went viral and have become extensively used as a GIF to precise unease or bewilderment, together with captions similar to “When your instructor catches you dishonest on a take a look at.”

A decade later, Collin is a freshman on the soccer group at Lake Erie Faculty in Painesville, Ohio, and he is come full circle. Popeyes signed the 18-year-old this month for a sponsorship that can use his identify, picture and likeness on billboards and different commercials for the fast-food restaurant.

He is lastly cashing in his six seconds of web fame — though his household was not thrilled about it at first.

“When it occurred, we did not need to be within the highlight. And simply having that on the market, folks had been coming to my dad and saying, ‘Hey, we have seen your child on this,’ making an attempt to make a joke of it. My dad did not prefer it for his youngsters to be joked on,” Collin instructed CNN. “However now, the truth that I switched it right into a blessing, he likes it.”

Collin is cashing in on a NCAA coverage that enables school athletes to earn sponsorship cash

A reputation, picture and likeness deal — generally known as an NIL — permits school athletes to obtain compensation from model partnerships that use their identify, picture or likeness for advertising and promotional content material. The offers stem from an NCAA coverage change in 2021 that enables student-athletes to revenue from sponsorship alternatives.

Popeyes introduced the deal this month after a social media marketing campaign by Collin and his followers. To kick off the partnership, the fast-food chain posted an Instagram video of Collin narrating his unlikely story.

“That is the place our story began,” he says within the video with the viral picture of him at Popeyes within the background. “The second that made us a meme. We did not ask for it. We did not perceive it. However don’t fret little man, we did not let it cease us. As a result of the extra we grew, the more durable we bought. We discovered to lean in. We turned the eye into motivation and the motivation into championships. That is the place our story began and now it is the place a brand new one begins.”

The primary Popeyes billboard that includes Collin went up final weekend in his hometown of East Orange, New Jersey. It options the viral picture and a brand new picture of the grownup Collin mimicking his 9-year-old expression with a bigger Popeyes drink in his hand.

“Followers ought to preserve an eye fixed out for different enjoyable content material to come back,” Popeyes stated in an announcement. “From memes to desires, Dieunerst and Popeyes will grace social media feeds as soon as once more.”

The partnership began with a name on social media

The brand new partnership is the results of one more social media second.

On January 8, Collin posted a throwback of his viral picture on Twitter and Instagram and urged his followers to assist him get Popeyes’ consideration for an NIL deal. His followers rallied and tagged Popeyes in posts supporting Collin.

“Collin Dieunerst is now a freshman offensive lineman at Division II Lake Erie Faculty and if this man would not have an NIL deal by tomorrow, the Louisiana kitchen wants to wash home on higher administration,” one man tweeted.

Even different fast-food eating places joined the push.

“Popeyes do it for the Vine,” Buffalo Wild Wings tweeted, referring to the now-defunct video platform. “Let’s chat over lunch,” rival KFC tweeted in a message tagging Collin.

Inside a couple of hours, Collin stated, Popeyes despatched him a personal message and an organization consultant referred to as him with a suggestion. Just a few days later, Popeyes introduced the partnership on social media. “Proud to welcome Dieunerst Collin to the fam,” it stated.

Collin stated he is excited in regards to the new partnership, and hopes it ends with him getting his personal meal at Popeyes — like rapper Travis Scott and different celebrities have with fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Till then, he is completely satisfied to advertise his favourite fast-food chain, the place his go-to meal is a rooster sandwich, fries, a biscuit and, sure, a lemonade.

He was shocked that folks from everywhere in the nation supported his effort.

“Quite a bit can occur with the facility of the web behind you,” Collin stated. “I am unable to imagine I can say I am formally sponsored by Popeyes. Thanks to everybody who helped unfold the nice phrase!”

He hopes to play professional soccer after school

Collin declined to debate the monetary points of his Popeyes deal.

Louis Moore, affiliate professor of sports activities historical past at Grand Valley State College in Michigan, stated it is uncommon for a nationwide model to signal a comparatively unknown athlete to an NIL deal.

“Historically, male athletes need to be very talked-about earlier than they get a nationwide model endorsement. However they’re well-liked due to their success on the sphere, not due to a meme,” Moore stated.

Dieunerst Collin

Dieunerst Collin on his viral fame: “I simply by no means thought it will get that large.”

“Linking up with Collin reveals that there’s a change on this pondering. Recognition doesn’t need to be based mostly on athletic success anymore. Due to social media, younger athletes can come into school already having a model, which could be engaging to firms.”

Such NIL offers imply extra financial alternatives for faculty athletes, he stated.

Collin, a communications main at Lake Erie Faculty, hopes to play skilled soccer earlier than changing into a sports activities analyst. He by no means imagined the Vine clip would deliver him fame — and a model partnership — a decade later.

In actual fact, his household tried to get the video faraway from the web, he stated.

“I simply by no means thought it will get that large,” he stated. “I simply thought folks will transfer on and neglect in regards to the meme. After I discuss to my father, he really will get actually emotional as a result of he by no means anticipated this (success) for me.”

The meme has grown on him and his household. Collin stated his dad plans to place up his Popeyes’ “Memes to “Desires” poster in his barbershop so he can share his son’s story with prospects.

Does Collin use his meme on his associates? Not a lot. Most instances, he prefers to ship emojis.

“I’ve used it lower than 10 instances,” he stated. “I am not an enormous fan of utilizing it, as a result of it is me — however typically I am going to ship it simply to be humorous.”


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