Donald De La Haye has over 5 million subscribers on YouTube.
SAN ANTONIO — Each player in the United Football League (UFL), the merged spring showcase between the former XFL and USFL, has a motivation to play spring football.
But for new San Antonio Brahmas kicker Donald De La Haye, the motivation is not financial.
“I’ve been blessed to become a millionaire because of social media,” says De La Haye, 27. “I had a pretty good year last year. A few million dollars.”
That’s because he’s what you call a social media star.
“Anyone could pick up the camera and do like a 10-to-15-second Tik Tok, but it takes a lot of skill and work to create a 15-to-20-minute video,” says De La Haye, who’s preferred content site is YouTube.
Ironically, his social media explosion runs parallel with his football journey.
While kicking for the University of Central Florida in 2015, Donald saw his quirky behind-the-scenes videos take a life of their own.
“The first video that really popped off was the (NFL) Combine was going on the time. So me and my friends did a mock combine at the indoor facility.”
“I was running the 40 (yard dash) and he slipped and didn’t start the timer on time. So I ran and it looked like I a ran a 3.7 or something crazy like that,” recalls De La Haye of his first viral post. “We started doing some skits as well, and those went crazy. So around summer is really when the numbers started going crazy.”
Within two years at UCF, Donald was getting millions of clicks and a small income from endorsements for his content.
Today, that would make sense.
In 2024, thousands of college athletes are making profit their name, image and likeness as De La Haye was in 2017. With the NCAA allowing today’s college athletes to profit, some student-athletes are making upwards of one million dollars.
But in 2017, benefitting from NIL was illegal. So the NCAA came for him.
“I probably made like $3,000 total,” De La Haye says of his earnings from his UCF content. “That obviously they (NCAA) didn’t like too much.”
“They investigated my channel, dug up every comment, every post, every single thing I ever did on social media. They basically told me I’m using my name image and likeness to profit. SO they gave me the ultimatum.”
The NCAA told De La Haye to either quit the content or quit UCF.
Donald chose clicks over kicks.
“I’d like to say I opened people’s eyes that social media is going to be a big player and a big factor. That’s kind of why I made my decision because I knew social media was on the up and coming.”
“I had the ball rolling so why not keep at it.”
Free from the NCAA, De La Haye went all in on his YouTube channel, churning out regular content. Today, he has over 5 million YouTube subscribers and rakes in millions of dollars from brands and sponsorships.
Some of his most popular are his 1-on-1 wide receiver drill tournaments, which have drawn prominent guests from Eli Manning to Tyreek Hill.
“What I do is I’ll announce I’m coming to a certain city. I’ll put something on my Instagram saying ‘Hey guys, I’m coming out and offering $10,000 to the best player out there.’“
“Whether you’re a receiver, DB… come out and compete. And we rent a field, barriers, security… and guys come out. It’s just random people. People with a dream, people who are talented. We’ve found some really good guys from this.”
In fact, the top receiver in the XFL last season was a product of De La Haye’s tournament. Seattle Sea Dragons WR Jahcour Pearson led the league in receiving yards.
“He came to my one-on-one and just killed it. He won probably like six of them. He took a lot of my money,” De Lay Haye says, laughing.
But through all his content creation, Donald never lost his love for kicking. He spent time with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and kept training three to four times a week before the Brahmas gave him a call.
“I kept practicing and kept working. I kind of captured social media like lightning in a bottle at the time,” says De La Haye looking back. “I knew I had to take that and run with it. I knew there was going to be a path and kept my head down, kept grinding. And now I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to come in and compete.”
Less than ten years after having to choose paths, De La Haye is back in the game in the Brahmas.
This time, his content and his kicking will be welcomed with open arms.