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The unbelievable way a Division II athlete scored an NIL deal with Popeyes

Dieunerst Collin has social media, including the now-defunct Vine app, to thank for his new business deal

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A chicken sandwich is displayed at a Popeyes fast food restaurant in Kyle, Texas, on Aug. 22, 2019.

A chicken sandwich is displayed at a Popeyes fast food restaurant in Kyle, Texas, on Aug. 22, 2019.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

Dieunerst Collin went viral as a 9-year-old without agreeing to be filmed. Now, that uncomfortable experience has helped him go viral again, and this time, it’s on his own terms.

“I didn’t know the internet was like that. ... I appreciate it,” he said this week on Instagram Live.

Who is the Popeyes kid?

Collin, who plays Division II football for Lake Erie College, first went viral in 2013 on a now-defunct video app called Vine. Users loved his disturbed reaction when a strange adult approached him at a Popeyes and asked him to mimic a famous Vine creator.

“Collin reacted as one should when a strange man approaches speaking nonsense. He gave him the side-eye and went about his business,” Yahoo! Sports reported.

Even after Vine shut down, screenshots of the video continued to circulate on other social media sites. “Popeyes kid,” as Collin came to be known, became the perfect way to mock comments that you found ridiculous.

“Collin’s side-eye image has lived on on Twitter and other social media as a sign of disapproval or judgment to another’s comment,” Yahoo! Sports reported.

What happened to Popeyes kid?

Although Collin didn’t have a prominent social media presence as a 9-year-old, he went on to become a relatively famous high school football player in New Jersey. After his team won the state championship in 2021, he had an opportunity to speak to the media about why going viral as a child was no fun.

“When (the video) first came out, I would take it as bullying,” he told Sports Illustrated at the time.

But over time, Collin said he made peace with being Popeyes kid. In recent days, he started proudly promoting the meme as he pursued an NIL deal with Popeyes.

“I need everyone to go to my Instagram ... repost my recent post and tag Popeyes. I just wanna talk,” Collin tweeted on Jan. 8.

NIL deals allow college athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness by, for example, appearing in commercials or sponsored social media posts. NIL compensation was legalized by the NCAA in 2021, as the Deseret News previously reported.

On Tuesday, Front Office Sports and other outlets reported that Collin’s effort paid off. The freshman offensive lineman is believed to now have an NIL deal with the chicken chain.

Popeyes appeared to confirm the news in a tweet of its own Tuesday. The chain said, “Let’s get this bread(ing)” and shared an emoji of a hand holding a pen.

The restaurant’s tweet has more than 6,500 likes. Collin’s original Instagram post proposing the deal has more than 40,000.