Rice football dismantled Tulsa in prime time, but the college football universe was seemingly more focused on a newfound folk hero, Gummy Worm Guy.
Since its inception, college football has served as the sports world’s outlet for the surreal and the strange. The games matter — that is after all the point of all of this — but for many, it’s the stories and the spectale that draw them back to stadiums and tv screens across the country.
In this spot, at any moment, something could happen that takes the entire sphere by storm. Unusual superstitions, songs and moments become things of legend. Turnover props take center stage. Last Thursday night, it was the Gummy Worm Guy.
Daniel Domian is his name, but it was his internet-given title that was the talk of the nation when a viral tweet from Aaron Smith turned a seemingly normal American Conference football game into a national event. “I’ve been doing this for the past seven or eight weeks,” Domian said. “And one dude with his phone just blew me up.”
— Aaron Smith (@Aaron_Smith95) October 19, 2023
During the game, Domian passed out gummy snacks to players on the team with the goal of keeping them energized and ready to roll. When he finished the duties, cleaned up and returned to the bus he was greeted with the news. Morgen Cote, the Owls’ Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach and Domian’s supervisor, sent him the video and jokingly told him, “Hey, you’re famous, kid.”
Domian’s gummy-centered heroism made the rounds. Barstool and Sportscenter picked it up, national reporters shared the video. A few days later he was sitting down for interviews with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Dave Campbell’s and others.
It was in that context, Rice Football Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Hans Straub was able to share the why behind the sudden internet sensation. After noticing the players were getting burned out on fruit snacks and applesauce, more mundane forms of in-game nutrition, Straub tasked Cote with finding a more creative solution.
Cote came up with the gummies, handing the duties over to Domian when he arrived on campus this semester for his internship. Technically, being the Gummy Worm Guy is only a small part of his responsibilities.
He spends the rest of his breaking down the weight room and making sure the Andrew Sendejo Fueling Station is ready with snacks and meals for players at all times. And now, running to Costco to purchase copious amounts of gummy bears, gummy worms, gummy watermelons and more.
“It’s a simple sugar. It’s a simple form. It’s easy to break down in the bloodstream and get to where it needs to go and elevate your blood sugar levels,” Straub said. “We looked at every gummy option on the market, and that age group, they love that stuff.”
The science laid the foundation. Domian delivered on his assignment. The internet, well, the internet did what the internet does and turned a calculated solution into a cultural moment.
Since, Trolli has partnered with the program, promising to give away thousands of gummies to Rice students at their upcoming home game against Tulane this weekend. Domian has been outfitted with a new distribution bag and hat for the occasion, which proudly sports his newfound moniker “Worm Guy.”
— Tanner Gardner (@tannerdgardner) October 27, 2023
Rice is leaning into the moment, embracing a spotlight they probably wouldn’t have received had it not been for some kids’ snacks. The score of the Tulsa game? Few remember that at this point. Gummy Worm Guy? He’ll live in college football lore forever.
In the middle of it all, Domian is doing his best to balance his responsibilities with the levity and silliness of the situation.
“It’s really just a God-given talent at this point,” he chuckled. “You’ve either got it or you don’t.”
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