The Daily Gamecock

Internet Gamecocks: Students and alumni find success online

Everyone knows the famous Gamecocks, such as Darius Rucker or Darla Moore. But a new generation of fame is increasingly common today with online creator culture — and college students are no strangers to this limelight. 

Internet fame is all around us today. Someone with thousands of followers can be the random person sitting next to you in class. Because of this, it is likely there are both more famous and other celebrities not mentioned here. This list is not comprehensive.  

Here's a collection of Gamecocks who have found a following through various media platforms:

Jake “The Beast of Carnage” McFarlin 

In his junior year at Woodmont high, in Piedmont, SC, first-year nursing student Jake McFarlin posted a video of himself getting a tackle in a football game, and his friends congratulated him. As a result, they suggested his nickname be "The Beast of destruction." It didn't sit well with McFarlin, but he liked the idea.

"I looked at the thesaurus other than destruction, and carnage came up," he said.

Today, “The Beast of Carnage” is his persona with over 53,000 followers and over 1 million likes on TikTok. He has captured his audience with football, motivational and miscellaneous trendy content.

Fame has made living as the “Beast of Carnage” challenging at times, McFarlin said. 

“I'm trying to be myself (but) it's hard because you don't know if people want you for your fame or if people want you for who you really are,” McFarlin said.

But McFarlin has enjoyed the connections he's made with people through his fame, too, he said. 

“It's great, I've got constant knocks on my door like ‘Yo, are you the beast of carnage? My friend from back home loves you,’” McFarlin said. “A lot of them want to get to know me personally about who I really am … and they noticed, they’ve all said that I’m a humble, outdoing guy, and they would’ve never thought that based on social media.”

McFarlin's football motivations aren't inauthentic - it's not just for show, he said. His online personality is very similar to his in-person personality. Friends and fans have even told him they feel motivated by him.

McFarlin’s life mottos are common on his pages. “Eat greedy,” “take no prisoners” and “stay savage” drive him to live to the fullest and do things with purpose. 

He doesn’t have plans to quit anytime soon, either. He said he wants to go back to his old high school and coach there once he graduates. 

“I will still be posting on TikTok about my inspirational journey, coaching and just keeping the name Coach Carnage,” McFarlin said.

Connor Brew

Alumnus Connor Brew is the worst frat guy ever — or, at least, he plays one in sketches online. 

Brew, better known as @brewskibrew to his 750,000 TikTok followers, creates videos imitating and exaggerating a “frat boy." The skits — which for a time included dressing up as a character from the animated movie "Shrek" or dancing with his friends — have garnered over 45 million likes on that app. 

Brew graduated from USC in May of 2022 with a major in sports and entertainment management. 

Sydney Herz 

First-year sports and entertainment management student Sydney Herz is no stranger to internet fame. 

She has spent the past seven years building her social media following. In that time, she has accumulated over 500,000 followers on Instagram and 1.3 million on Tik Tok. 

She got her start in the social media world as an 11-year-old by befriending a member of a viral vlogging family, the Bratayleys. The family documented their lives in weekly vlogs, and even amassed nearly seven million subscribers on YouTube. 

"I developed a friendship with a girl named Annie, we became really close, and then she got really big on YouTube from vlogging with her and her family, and so I would appear on their YouTube pretty often," Herz said.

Herz gained a following after appearing in the family vlogs, and she soon created her own YouTube channel and gained a following.

Herz saw the opportunity to spread positivity online, so she continued to create content and took off. She said she wanted to make content other than the vlogging she knew. 

Herz showcased her gymnastics career rather than vlogging and often made videos with her twin brother,  doing ‘twin challenges.”  

As she grew closer to the Bratayley Family, she developed a special friendship with their son, Caleb. 

Unfortunately, the friendship ended after four years when Caleb passed away in 2015. 

“(Losing Caleb) was really difficult and that definitely sparked wanting to use social media more to remember him and it also sparked my music ... It was in memorial for him," Herz said. 

As time went on, Herz continued posting her gymnastics and music content in the years following, that is until the pandemic hit.  

“Then I realized that a lot of people were going through a lot of things,” Herz said. “I was going through a lot mentally and so I was like, I want to use this to empower people … that's what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to find the niche now.”

Herz has maintained a significant following over the past seven years, but she said it increased when she got to USC. Now, she plans to focus her content on her life in college.

As the pandemic slowed, Herz started posting again. She still focused on spreading positivity by posting photos from her life, as well as dance trends on TikTok. 

“I just want to like show everybody that — how amazing of a school it is. But I think I also can do that with incorporating like positivity and have happiness and things like that,” Herz said.

Ryan Magee, Matt Watson and SuperMega

According to The Daily Gamecock records, Ryan Magee, a student at the time, won an on-campus short film competition for the channel's work, "The Afterlife", in 2014. 

The group that made the video — his popular YouTube account, Cyndago — got its start here at USC. The Daily Gamecock also profiled the account on its success in 2014. The story quotes them saying they plan to move to LA to pursue its success. Cyndago disbanded sometime later. 

Today, he has done just that. Magee has amassed a huge following with his new channel, SuperMega, a variety comedy channel, that is shared with Matt Watson, who also attended USC.

The Daily Gamecock was unable to contact them about their time at USC or potential graduation.  

Ayman Az

Ayman Alzahrani is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student from Saudi Arabia. 

When the pandemic hit during his sophomore year, he decided to stay in Columbia. He decided to put his free time to good use — by learning to make and edit videos, he said. 

“I love it,” Alzahrani said. “Acting and everything — you see the reaction of the followers, your people, and making them laugh.”

He started with TikTok, making comedy sketch videos. He eventually worked his way up to nearly 200,000 followers on the app and began to make YouTube videos. 

Recently, he started making YouTube videos regularly, and he has amassed a following of 130,000 followers. 

It can be tough balancing being a student and making videos, but he said it’s not bad. 

“I had to sacrifice some things to balance my time as a student and content creator,” he said, referring to working out and playing soccer often. 

Not only is he popular on the internet, but he was a professional soccer player in Saudi Arabia.  

He said viewers seem to be interested in his life — his friends, campus, studying abroad and his jokes. He hasn’t met anyone else on campus who makes regularly popular content, he said. 

Today, his goal is to get his degree to be able to focus fully on perfecting the craft and to continue making people laugh. 

Maleen Windbrooke 

Just two years ago, Maleen Windbrooke, a USC 2022 graduate, was off the grid.

Throughout high school and early college, Windbrooke had no social media accounts — too many negative experiences. But she got bored during the pandemic. 

She decided to make a TikTok page with content centered around all things USC, such as notable classes, events on campus, inside jokes and the “frat lots.” Windbrooke said people sharing the passion of USC was rewarding because it allowed viewers to relate to the Gamecock experience.

“South Carolina definitely has a very dedicated fan base that will share the camaraderie with each other. And that's what I love about Carolina,” Windbrooke said. 

One day, she made a response video to a viral post about "who is the real USC," which launched her into virality. Windbrooke used this traction to build a USC content base. Her posts often serve as comedic commentaries on all things South Carolina. She now has over 18,000 followers on TikTok and millions of views to her name.

She said that the successful online community gave her confidence and healed her relationship with social media. 

“I finally am making this very genuine content that people are genuinely, really happy with. And so I'm just really proud of myself, and high school me is ecstatic to see where this has gone,” Windbrooke said. 

Windbrooke hopes to continue her personal content while remaining professional, aspiring to be in the cyber security sector. 

Today, her content has adapted to her different stages of life. She’s lived in California, Columbia and now attends the Kings College of London where she is studying for a master’s degree in cyber intelligence.

Windbrooke said she has never done it for fame, but rather to create a virtual diary to document her experiences. She said she's grateful to have a plethora of memories to look back on. 

“I just enjoyed making the content and I kind of made this promise to myself, that even if the views kind of fall off, I would still keep making content for future me,” Windbrooke said.

Claudia Sams

Claudia Sams, a second-year fashion merchandising student, is a lifestyle influencer on TikTok and Instagram.

Sams said she began her content creation during COVID-19 to talk about fashion and trends. Today, it’s all about spreading positivity, through inspirational posts about self-care and confidence.

She said she tries to be transparent about social media and how online presences can be inauthentic. 

“I put out a ton of positivity, but everything on social media is not real all the time. Nobody's life is perfect. So it is so important, I think, to address that part of someone's appearance on social media,” Sams said. 

Sams said that she is influenced by USC, both people and location. She said she loves taking pictures at the Hub and its surrounding restaurants. 

“I'm influencing UofSC, which is kind of like giving out my, kind of my mindset. I also feel like my mindset has definitely grown with what I've learned from people at UofSC. There’s kind of a little trade there,” Sams said. 

She said she hopes to go into interior design one day and to continue growing her online platform. The two go hand-in-hand, she said. 

People haven't always been accepting of her in the past. It's different here, she said. 

“Everybody at the school is so, just sweet and supporting of what I do. If I were to do this back in my old high school, which I did, was very much I felt like more peers, very, looked at it very negatively, where everybody here just is very supportive of what I do. And so I feel like at South Carolina, it's just easier,” Sams said. 

Amelia Farrell and Griffin Goodwyn contributed to this report.