ATHENS — Harrison Black is a second-team defensive lineman for the Athens Golden Eagles.
He has nearly 75,000 people waiting to see what he does next in his life.
Welcome to the life of a high school football player with a popular YouTube channel.
Black is the creator of ToastedNoodle. Since the first of his nearly 50 videos went online in 2017, he’s become something of a star with 74,546 subscribers and growing as of Wednesday afternoon.
ToastedNoodle has gotten so big that Black was invited to the 2019 Video Convention last month in Anaheim, California. VidCon claims to be the world’s largest celebration of online video and digital creators. It’s an opportunity for fans to make celebrities out of the creators.
“He asked to be excused from football workouts because he needed to go to a video convention in California,” Athens head coach Cody Gross said. “That was a first for me. I’ve never had a player ask to be excused for something like that.”
Black, the son of Shane and Trisha Black, said he grew up watching cartoons. From that he developed a love for drawing and telling stories. He brought the two together and decided to put them on YouTube just to see what would happen. The name ToastedNoodle came from a name he came up with to play the online video game Minecraft.
“I hit 1,000 subscribers pretty quick. Then it was 2,000,” Black said. “My plan was to stay pretty low key, but it helps to get lucky. I struck gold when YouTube recommended me. Word spread on Twitter and Instagram.”
One morning last winter after a football workout, Gross heard loud noises in the football facility.
“The team was crowded around Harrison, who was looking at his phone,” Gross said. “I asked what was going on and someone said ‘He’s about to hit 20,000 subscribers.’ A few minutes later he got it, and the guys went wild.”
The ToastedNoodle videos are usually in the range of four to six minutes. It’s Black sharing stories about what's going on in his life. The video artwork is simple stick figures, but it’s not the artwork that is the big draw. It’s how well Black can tell a story in so few words. He has a knack for making good use of comedic timing to nail a funny line.
“I just want to make people happy by entertaining them with stories of my life,” Black said.
One of his more popular videos is about the time his mom warned him about his older sister’s sorority stopping by the house at 1 a.m. to take her for rush. He and a visiting friend lived in total fear that night.
In another he tells about two of his greatest fears — heights and nuclear radiation. He describes the fear of riding the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags and his disbelief that he actually screamed “Holy, Mackerel” during the ride.
There are a series of videos explaining why he considers himself a “weather geek.” Living through the tornado outbreak of April 28, 2014, made a huge impact on him. So much so that he wants to eventually become a meteorologist.
Black’s YouTube goal is 100,000 subscribers. That would earn him a plaque.
“If that happens, I’ll be a very happy man,” Black said. “The next goal would be 1 million.”
The reaction to ToastedNoodle at VidCon surprised Black.
“My dad drove me to the convention center and dropped me off,” Black said. “Before I could get in the building, someone noticed me wearing my ToastedNoodle T-shirt and came running toward me. He wanted to know if I was the ‘ToastedNoodle guy?’ I hadn’t even taken 10 steps from the car.”
The popularity does bring some financial reward. Commercials attached to his videos bring him a monthly check. He said last December was his best month with $2,500.
“I don’t do it for the money, but it is cool to get money for it,” Black said. “I know my parents like it because I don’t have to ask them for money all the time.”
The popularity also brings the challenge of meeting his subscribers’ demand for more. Black does all the work. It takes several weeks to prepare a script. It usually takes another two weeks to finish one video. School and football make it difficult to do anything in the fall.
“The objective is to make as good a product as possible,” Black said. “My worst fear is to produce a dud and then watch the whole thing fizzle.”