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

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

After seeing the clip displaying him obvious 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 about the 9-year-old, and Collin’s classmates later made him the butt of their jokes.

Collin has come to phrases with the meme lately as he has developed one other identification by soccer, which he performs at Division II Lake Erie College in Ohio. This month, the 18-year-old used the meme’s reputation to signal a sponsorship take care of Popeyes that may connect his identify, picture and likeness to commercials.

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

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

In August 2013, Collin mentioned his father, Evens, ordered a household rooster meal at a Popeyes in Irvington, NJ Collin mentioned 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 well-liked for his dance strikes on Vine earlier than it was shut down in October 2016. Collin did not know whether or not the videographer was chatting with him or the individual beside him, he mentioned, so he checked out the digicam and glanced beside him earlier than shifting his eyes in direction of the digicam once more. Collin mentioned he dismissed the encounter as a joke.

Then about three weeks later, his sister, Everlyne, shared the video. People used the quick clip to specific reactions to awkward moments, similar to seeing a instructor outdoors faculty or being requested to work weekends. As a fifth-grader, Collin mentioned classmates nicknamed him “TerRio” as he became well-known for the meme.

Collin mentioned he felt accepted two years later in center faculty when he met new pals who had not realized about the meme. In highschool, Collin mentioned, soccer helped him type his identification and discover belonging. Collin’s teammates offered him with a new nickname, “Killer Whale,” for his blocking on the offensive line.

“People began to know who I actually was,” Collin mentioned.

When Collin’s highschool coach, Rae Oliver, realized about the meme, he mentioned he invited Collin into his workplace. Although he usually internalized his feelings, Collin mentioned, he defined his difficulties overcoming bullying. Oliver mentioned he noticed a likelihood for Collin to remodel the meme into a advertising and marketing alternative.

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

At Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, coaches realized about the meme once they started recruiting Collin in 2021. When Collin dedicated to the small school in February 2022, phrase of the new classmate unfold throughout the scholar physique.

“I do not suppose we bargained for the mild that Dieunerst was,” Lake Erie Coach Demir “DJ” Boldin mentioned. “After we really obtained to know him, he’s one in every of the biggest youngsters, like, ever.”

Collin, who’s 6-foot-1 and 330-pounds, redshirted in the fall to develop. Around January, sports activities 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 during which he wrote he was prepared to speak enterprise.

Within a day, Collin mentioned 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 mentioned. Collin declined to reveal his wage however mentioned, “It’s a lot.”

“He’s accepting of who he is,” Oliver mentioned. “He’s been in a position to take the energy from the unfavourable facet of it and switch that ache into revenue.”

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