Dieunerst Collin was just 9 when he went viral on social media some years ago after he was randomly recorded holding a Popeye’s cup and looking at the camera in a seemingly awkward and uneasy way. The person who recorded him also teasingly said he looked like Lil Terrio – a popular social media star.
And though he instantly became a viral social media meme, Collin, in a previous interview, said he felt sad after he became aware of the video, adding that he also did not like the attention that was coming his way.
But Collin eventually moved on from that episode of his life. Now a student-athlete, Collin won a 2021 state football championship with his alma mater, East Orange High School, Face2Face Africa reported at the time. Collin, who is now a redshirt freshman center at Ohio’s Lake Erie College, also recently made something positive come out of the viral meme after he signed a Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal with Popeye’s – the fast food chain where he was initially mocked.
“I thought this is probably the opportunity I can get with Popeyes to at least reach out,” said Collin. “I went on Instagram and decided to post asking everyone to repost and tag Popeyes, not knowing that I would get all the support I got. People just started to join, on my post and people that were on the ‘SportsCenter’ post, and I believe Monday afternoon was when Popeyes DM’ed me and said we actually want to work with you.”
And though Collin also confirmed he had been offered a NIL deal by Popeye’s, he said he couldn’t share any details because he’s yet to sign the contract. After the news of the NIL deal was circulated across social media, Collin also said other companies have reached out to him for potential partnerships.
“I had Dude Wipes, they talked to me and they’re sending me some products,” he said. “I have one company that I’ve been with called Lock1N. It’s an athletic brand from a football player I used to play with in high school.”
Collin adds up to the few football players in his school to land a NIL deal. But he said his teammates have still been supportive. “My teammates were excited for me, because they believed I should be doing what I’m doing now with it,” Collin told ESPN. “The fact that every teammate of mine [said] congratulations, asked if I was OK and they’re rooting for me to make this bigger than what it is now.”
The student-athlete also expressed his gratitude to those who helped him grab Popeye’s attention. “I just want to thank everyone for going in the comments and tagging Popeyes,” Collin said. “That actually led me to where I’m at now, so I’m grateful for that.”
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Collin initially did not like the popularity he amassed after he went viral on social media. “When it first happened, I kind of felt sad about it,” he told Sports Illustrated at the time. “It was somebody randomly recording me, and I’ve never been viral before. When it first came out, I would take it as bullying, every time I used to hear ‘Oh, Terio, Terio,’ and that’s not my name … a couple weeks later, I figured out it was me based on the video. I got kind of emotional, cried a little bit.”
But he eventually managed to get over it. He also said he hoped his story can motivate people who have experienced bullying. “I would say just don’t take it so personal, because when I did take it personal, I did get to a place where it was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go out any more,’” Collin said. “And stay close to friends and family … you’ll also meet new people when you don’t take it as personal.”