Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
Like many other YouTubers, when Donald De La Haye’s channel Deestroying garnered enough subscribers and views for him to begin making AdSense revenue from his videos, he was stoked. But that elation didn’t last long. You see, De La Haye wasn’t just a YouTuber. He was also a young kickoff specialist with NFL potential, attending the University of Central Florida (UCF) on a sports scholarship.
Because De La Haye’s YouTube videos chronicled his life as a student athlete, the NCAA argued that earning ad revenue from them constituted a violation of rules preventing student players from making money off their fledgling careers.
So they made him choose: football, or YouTube.
De La Haye chose YouTube. Well, sort of. In the year-plus since his decision to put YouTube first, De La Haye has continued making football content, and has partnered with some of the largest sports organizations in the world — including the NFL. And though he lost out on the ability to play a full college career (something for which he’s suing UCF), he’s still aiming for the NFL…now with one million YouTube subscribers tagging along on his journey.
Check out our chat with De La Haye below about his decision to bet everything on YouTube.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
DDLH: It’s truly a blessing! One million subs has been my goal since I started making YouTube videos. It is really a validation for all the hard work I’ve put in and all the adversities I’ve had to overcome. I’m just really proud to say that I have one million subscribers — and, like I tell my fans all the time, I know that it wouldn’t be possible without all of the incredible support from my loyal subscribers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, and they are really the reason why I enjoy making content so much — to entertain and inspire! And, of course, I am proud of one million, but I definitely want more! I’m coming for two million!
Tubefilter: You got started on YouTube as a young teenager—when and how did you decide to switch away from gaming content to football content? Were you worried you’d lose fans if you changed up your videos?
DDLH: I’ve always been an avid gamer. Whether it’s Madden or Fortnite, I consider myself to be a pretty well-rounded gamer, but I made a decision early on that I wanted my channel to be different. I realized that there was a lack of content missing in the football space on YouTube. There’s a lot of basketball, soccer, and esports channels, but there really aren’t many in football.
I think that is one of the main reasons why my channel has grown so quickly — because football is one of the biggest sports in America, but there wasn’t anyone making content around it. So I kind of just saw that opportunity and haven’t looked back since. I’ve always created content that I think is entertaining, and my mindset is that if I like it, then I’m confident my subscribers will like it too. Having a healthy mix of different genres all focused around football (training, comedy, esports, lifestyle, and inspirational) has been a huge reason why my fans keep coming back for more.
Tubefilter: You’ve talked before about having to choose YouTube over your football career. Since then, you’ve actually been able to work with the NFL, as well as other major sports organizations and brands. What has that been like?
DDLH: It was honestly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I worked so hard to get that D1 scholarship and it was really a dream come true, but I always had a passion for creating content. I thought (and I still think) that I should be able to do both, but obviously the NCAA thought differently. They made me pick between being a D1 athlete or a YouTuber. I received a lot of support, but also a lot of negativity with my decision. A lot of people thought I was making a huge mistake, but at the end of the day, I had confidence in myself and I couldn’t be happier with where I am in my life.
It’s amazing to work with pro leagues like the NFL and the CFL, as well as big-time brands, to create content with them. I may not be a professional athlete, but as a YouTuber, I’m really enjoying this influencer life and the opportunities that come with it. There’s really nothing better than getting paid to do what you love, and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now!
Tubefilter: How did some of those partnerships come about? Which partnerships have been your favorites?
DDLH: Right before everything went down with the NCAA, I started talking to Josh Millan from Whistle. He’s now my partner manager and has helped me transition into being a full-time influencer. Partnering with Whistle has been instrumental in growing my social presence and setting me up professionally to work with brands and leagues.
Through my partnership with Whistle, I’ve worked with incredible brands such as: DiGiorno, Dollar Shave Club, MVMT Watches, Reebok, Burger King, Seatgeek, and Footlocker — but I think my favorite so far is with AT&T. They flew me and my boy Rahmel Dockery out to the SEC Championship game to create a vlog of my trip. I got all access in the stadium and locker room and it was a dope experience. The game was lit too! I’m working with them again for the College Football Championship, so I’m really excited for that experience!
Tubefilter: What do you think makes your voice stand out on YouTube?
DDLH: I think I stand out on YouTube because I’m real — what you see is what you get. I try to keep my content as authentic as possible. Like I said before, I create content that I enjoy, and my subscribers respect that. I like to have fun and make jokes and incorporate that in my videos. For example, I’m also serious about fitness and my life ambitions, so I try to demonstrate different lessons and my personality in my content. I have a saying that is “10 Toes Down” which to me means to always be true to yourself and be committed to what you believe in. I try to implement that mindset in my content.
Tubefilter: How long does it take you, on average, to make a video for your channel? Do you have a team to help you with editing or any other behind-the-scenes tasks?
DDLH: It’s tough to say because every video is different, but it is time-consuming. Everything from coming up with the idea to the actual filming and then the editing takes a lot of planning and work. I used to do all the editing myself, but now my boy Javonnte Hursey does the edits for me, he’s fire at it! It’s a fun process, but it definitely takes a lot of time. I want to make sure that the videos I put on my channel are perfect, so it’s important that I spend the time on it.
Tubefilter: Is YouTube your full-time job? What else do you get up to in your daily life?
DDLH: YouTube is definitely my full-time job at the moment. I’m fortunate to be able to live a great lifestyle by making videos, and hope to continue that for as long as possible. In order to be successful on YouTube, it’s all about being consistent with your content. Coming up with new ideas and filming videos takes time, so it’s really a full-time job.
In addition to making videos, I am working on my music career. My best friend King Troy and I have a few singles out right now, and we’re always in the studio working on more songs. I’d say aside from making YouTube videos and music, I am really into fitness, so when I’m not doing either of those two things, I’m probably in the gym and obviously working on my kicking.
Tubefilter: When did you notice your channel really starting to pick up subscribers? How did you know when you’d found your audience, and how did you grow that audience?
DDLH: I got a lot of media attention during the whole situation with the NCAA, so I think my channel really started to pop off then. A bunch of videos went viral during that process, and from there I just kinda found my niche. I noticed that there were a lot of impersonation videos on basketball players that were successful on YouTube, so I started to make those types of videos on football players, and my views started to skyrocket. My Odell Beckham Jr. video is my best ever — that one hit like 2.5 million!
Overall, I just try to be different and create content that is unique to my personality that inspires kids to do anything they want. My audience really enjoys that honesty and transparency. They see everything I’ve been through and that I’m just enjoying life and living it how I want. I work every day to be a good example for my fans.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content on YouTube?
DDLH: My favorite part about making videos is that I get to do what I love and I get to interact with people who genuinely want to see me win and succeed. I love my fanbase, and I’m committed to making great content for them. I’m only 22, so I have a long way to go, but I’m trying my best to be a good role model for kids. I want to show them you can be a D1 athlete if you work for it, and you can be a YouTuber too if you work for it. I’m always giving 100% in everything I do, and I love to showcase that in my videos.
Tubefilter: What’s next for your channel? Any plans looking to the future?
DDLH: I’m going to continue doing what works. I have a few different series on the channel currently, so I’m going to keep coming up with unique ideas and, most importantly, have fun. I get a lot of good feedback from my subscribers, so I’ll continue to listen to them to create great content they enjoy. I’m also going to keep creating music and just taking everything one day at a time.
Looking into the future, I want to continue to grow my YouTube channel and my social platforms, continue to build on my partnership with Whistle, and work with them on bigger projects, such as original content. 2019 is going to be a huge year for me, and I’m excited to show y’all what I have in store. My goal is also to play football professionally, so I’m going to keep working on my game and hopefully one day lace it up in the league!
You can add yourself to the ranks of De La Haye’s more-than-a-million YouTube subscribers at his channel YouTube.com/Deestroying.
Header image courtesy of Whistle