ORLANDO, Fla. – University of Central Florida junior place-kicker Donald De La Haye has been around video equipment as far back as he can remember.
But after starting his YouTube career by filming himself playing Call of Duty and soccer in his spare time, at the advice of a friend, he traded in his shin-guards and soccer balls for a pigskin, a holder and football uniform.
Grabbing the attention of former UCF football head coach and Athletics Director George O’Leary at a UCF football camp, De La Haye, 20, and his strong leg were offered a spot on the team.
The kickoff specialist was born in Limon, Costa Rica, and moved to Port St. Lucie, then began making videos relating to his new passion of football after joining the Black and Gold.
"I love football, it's gotten me here this far,” De La Haye said. “I feel like I could influence and inspire people and social change."
With 54,539 subscribers to his YouTube channel, De La Haye has produced videos ranging in views from a couple hundred to more than 300,000. Clearly, he has a passion for his creations.
He even hopes that one day, in his “life after football,” he can continue to make more money off the videos that not only have earned him a few bucks, but also have inspired his viewers and improved their days.
“You're my new favorite YouTuber, I'm so inspired to work on my game even more than I already do,” one fan said about De La Haye’s videos.
De La Haye, who wants his videos to make enough money to help out his family in paying the bills, has five videos, each with more than 200,000 views. With several other videos not far behind, the marketing major has found a good formula for success while not kicking footballs on the gridiron for the Knights, who are preparing for their 2017-18 season.
But he’s run into a little problem called the NCAA. Recently, De La Haye says he was asked to meet with a UCF compliance officer regarding his YouTube profits sourcing from advertisements.
"I feel like they're making me pick between my passion and what I love to do - make videos, entertain - and my other passion, play football."
In his Friday meeting, he was told he could be in danger of losing his UCF athlete status because of the money he makes. According to NCAA bylaw 12.4.4, De La Haye “may establish his own business, providing the student-athlete’s name, photograph, appearance or athletics reputation are not used to promote the business.”
Sometimes appearing in UCF facilities such as the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center, or wearing UCF shorts, De La Haye said he doesn’t want any trouble and isn’t trying to tarnish UCF’s reputation or promote his own videos.
“I feel like they're trying to say I'm using my image or likeness as a football player to make (a) profit off of it,” De La Haye said. “My YouTube videos, I guess you can see, I don't broadcast it, but you can see that I'm a football player here.”
But De La Haye does admit to trying to do the opposite, sharing his followers how much he loves his school, coaches and teammates.
"A lot of kids are messaging me, like, 'Wow UCF is so beautiful, so nice, I want to go there, I didn't know about it until I watched the videos.'"
De La Haye, who kicked off the ball 73 times, totaling 37 touchbacks, 4,441 yards and an average kick of 60.8 yards, wants to help the Knights have a successful season after their 2016 season, when they went 6-7.
But if given the choice between continuing his football career or his YouTube career, De La Haye says he wouldn’t be able to give a quick answer.
"I know it's a hard battle against the NCAA, a lot of people don't win that. But I feel like at least it should be talked about,” De La Haye said. “After all that, to tell me I can't do it is something that's not too fair."
"I feel like it's 2017, and we're only going further in time, and the NCAA needs to look over some of these rules and update them to fit modern times and modern culture and what's really going on,” he said. “There's been plenty of stories and if you check on YouTube, a lot of people have made millions of dollars, gotten huge sponsorships, huge deals, appear in commercials.”
Following the multiple sanctions the school received in 2012 after its football and basketball recruiting infractions, the Knights have since followed a strict interpretation of NCAA rules.
“UCF Athletics is committed to rules compliance,” the UCF Athletics Communications Department said in a statement. “Our compliance staff strives to make sure our student-athletes are informed about all pertinent NCAA bylaws. Student-athletes attend regular educational meetings regarding NCAA eligibility. One of our goals is to help our student-athletes learn about the bylaws that govern intercollegiate athletics, in an effort to help them maintain their eligibility.”
Out of De La Haye’s 41 videos on his “Deestroying” YouTube channel, his most recent video, which has more than 100,000 views, describes his predicament to either quit college athletics or quit his YouTube hobby. To him, the answer isn’t as simple as quitting one or the other.
“Football is an awesome opportunity and career but there's life beyond football,” he said.
The NCAA has yet to deliver a statement to News 6 regarding the situation.