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Ohio college football player Dieunerst Collin’s Popeyes deal includes Super Bowl commercial

It’s very likely there won’t be a person in Northeast Ohio who has a Super Bowl Sunday quite like Dieunerst Collin.

If you’ve never heard of the Lake Erie College football player from New Jersey, chances are you might after Feb. 12.

It’s been a whirlwind for Collin after he recently signed a name, image, likeness deal with the popular fast-food restaurant chain Popeyes.

That NIL deal included a Popeyes billboard featuring Collin in his hometown of East Orange, N.J. That was just the start. What’s next is a Super Bowl Popeyes commercial featuring Collin.

From internet meme fame, to a Big Game ad. @CollinDieunerst got his eyes on the fries (or pies). pic.twitter.com/SuYMYdWmvI

— Popeyes (@Popeyes) February 6, 2023

First, some background on Collin and his connection to Popeyes:

A decade ago at age 9, Collin rose to fame when a stranger recorded him while he was with his family at a Popeyes in New Jersey. The video of Collin has him with a confused look. That person eventually shared the video on social media, where it went viral as a popular meme for people to use to express unease or confusion.

hometown hero pic.twitter.com/Vi2V4v8Jl7

— Popeyes (@Popeyes) January 15, 2023

Fast forward 10 years, and Collin is a redshirt freshman at LEC, where the 6-foot-1, 330-pounder is hoping to get playing time at center in the fall.

When NIL deals were becoming a success for college athletes at the Division I level at the start of the 2022 season, Collin took notice. He never forgot his brief brush with social media fame. So he sent a message to Popeyes via social media that read along the lines of “Let’s talk business.”

.@CollinDieunerst of @LakeErieFB on the anticipation of his @Popeyes commercial on Super Bowl Sunday and the whirlwind following his NIL deal with the fast-food chain. @LakeErieStorm @NHPreps pic.twitter.com/OXZpc1PdWx

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 9, 2023

Eventually, Popeyes responded by direct message and an NIL deal was later finalized. Collin said the deal includes “about seven payments.” An amount wasn’t revealed but Collin said “it’s to the point where I can treat my family.”

these go hard. can we give them away @CollinDieunerst? pic.twitter.com/pASErTG0cr

— Popeyes (@Popeyes) February 9, 2023

The impact of Collin’s NIL deal has been enormous on the LEC campus and within the Storm football family.

LEC second-year head coach Demir Boldin said during the recruiting process the staff was impressed with Collin’s ability as a lineman. At Cicely L. Tyson High School, he was named second-team all-state, was a team captain and his team won a state championship. When a scholarship offer was made, it was after that fact that an assistant mentioned Collin’s claim to social media fame as a 9-year-old.

Collin has garnered plenty of media attention, including interviews with CBS Sports, ABC and others. He recorded an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he believes airs the day after the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

“We never anticipated any of this,” said Boldin, who’s from South Florida. “He’s brought us national attention. When I recruit in Florida, the first thing people say is ‘Where’s Lake Erie?’ People will start to know Lake Erie more because of all of this. He’s a national phenomenon. From memes to dreams.”

Collin wants to be a sports analyst after graduation, and possibly get into acting after his experience in front of the camera for the Popeyes commercial.

“We’re really happy for him,” said Boldin. “(The commercial) is going to be so special, not only for the coaching staff but the team. The guys love him. He’s a people person.”

Shooting for the commercial was in Miami and took one day to film. Collin said those on set told him he was “a natural” during filming. All of his scenes were shot in seven takes or less, according to Collin.

“I’m a football player, I’m used to playing under the lights,” he said with a smile.

Plans for Super Bowl Sunday include Collin watching the Eagles vs. the Chiefs in his dorm room with a lot of his teammates. Popeyes catering the mini-party isn’t out of the question, he said. When the Popeyes commercial will appear during the game is unclear.

“It’s going to be a surprise,” said Collin. “Whenever that moment happens, it happens.”

As for his NIL Popeyes plans after the Super Bowl, Collin isn’t sure what to expect. His coach said Collin should be ready for any and everything.

“I can only imagine what’s going to happen next,” he said.

On Feb. 9, Collin was hard at work during a weight-lifting session with his LEC teammates while sporting a hoodie of his hometown New York Giants. His NIL deal has helped change Collin’s life. But outside of his Popeyes persona he’s a football player looking to earn a starting spot at center for the Storm.

“Show people I’m not just a meme,” he said.

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