BYU freshman Will Andersen was eating lunch in the Cannon center when he first heard he had become a YouTube star. A flood of text messages from friends notified him the video of himself flipping various objects behind himself was going viral.
Andersen has been shocked and excited about his video’s popularity. He plans to continue making the videos, as he has for a year, because it’s simply something he enjoys doing.
Andersen originally posted the video, “The GOAT,” or “The Greatest of All Time,” to his YouTube channel on Feb. 7. His friend shared it on Reddit, where it made the front page.
Mashable, Today, UNILAD and LDS Living quickly shared the video. It currently has more than five million views on UNILAD.
Andersen said someone from Rightster, a company that has worked with viral videos such as “Charlie Bit My Finger,” reached out to him about a licensing deal.
The video is a compilation of throws Andersen has been making since spring 2015. The hobby began when Andersen filmed himself throwing a bouncy ball into a cup and then posted it on his SnapChat story.
“A lot of people really liked it, but I didn’t save any of the videos,” Andersen said.
One day during spring break he was home alone, bored and thinking of things to do. He thought it’d look cool to throw a cereal box into a trash can across the room, he said.
“I did it and I got a bunch of text messages and replies, saying how cool it was and that I should do more,” Andersen said. “So I just kept doing it and kept doing it and eventually it just became this thing that I did in my SnapChat story.”
The skill quickly evolved.
“I kept trying to make them more unique and harder, so they would be more interesting,” Andersen said. “I didn’t expect anything viral to happen.”
Andersen’s father, Wes, was also surprised to see the video go viral. He said Will has “always had a propensity to throw things — in a good way, in a fun way.”
When Will was two years old and his parents asked him to throw things in the trash, Wes said Will “immediately tossed it across the room into the garbage can. I guess it started early,” Wes said.
Wes witnessed the effects of some of Will’s earlier shots.
“I knew something was up when I came home one day and saw bread crumbs all piled around the toaster,” he said.
Will said he has to scope out each shot’s setting.
“A lot of times what I’ll try to do is think of something that belongs somewhere and how I could put it away by throwing it behind my back,” Will said. “I’ll just practice. Sometimes you have to throw it at a weird angle and so you’ve got to get used to how to do it in order to make it work. It can be tricky, but it’s really fun.”
He said each throw takes an average of 200 tries to get right — some more, some less. Filming himself can make the shot hard, especially because his phone sometimes crashes or overheats.
“I’ve lost some times where I’ve made it and I had to do it again,” he said.
BYU freshman Tanner Mullen lives down the hall from Will and was present when Will was putting his video together.
“He just keeps doing it and he doesn’t give up until he gets the results he wants,” Mullen said.
Will’s favorite shot was when he threw a peanut butter jar onto its shelf in a cabinet. After a few hours of trying, he decided to try one last time. “I did it, and it landed perfectly and everything, and I was super happy,” Will said.
Some throws are easier than others. Will said friends and roommates often want to see a throw on-demand, so he’ll throw a water bottle into a trash can behind him. That usually only takes him a few tries.
Other throws simply happen faster than others. When Will had the idea to throw a pill into a pill bottle, he thought it would be impossible. But he tried and was only slightly off. So he tried again and made it within the hour.
Will said it’s fun to read the comments on his video of people trying to explain how he does it or how he could have faked it. The most common explanation he has seen is that he did the shots in reverse. One person said he used an air cannon to launch bottles from trash cans and then caught the bottles.
“But I’ve thought about how I could’ve done any of those in reverse, and that would seem harder,” Will said. “That would take skill, too.”
Wes has thought the same thing as he sees people respond to the video.
“Will is the most persistent person I know, so it’s funny to see people try to figure out if there’s some kind of trick photography to it,” he said. “Because for Will, it’s just a matter of persistence. When he gets his mind set on something, he’ll accomplish it.”
Mullen began trying to copy the feat after seeing Will’s video gain in popularity.
“I was like, ‘Ok, this can’t be this hard. I want to try it,'” Mullen said.
Will filmed Mullen. It took Mullen half an hour to do “a few simple trick shots,” he said.
Will said the video’s popularity hasn’t really affected his life apart from being recognized by random people.
“You get a lot more people coming up to you, and you make a lot more friends,” he said.
Will plans to continue making videos. He has seen suggestions people have made for him to join DudePerfect. He doesn’t know if it’s something he would do, “but it’s cool,” he said. “(It’s) a similar thing.”
He doesn’t necessarily have an ideal shot he wishes to do, but he’s always striving for creativity.
“I thought a cool thing would be to go to the bowling alley and do a strike backwards,” he said. “I just try to make them unique.”
Will’s SnapChat username and YouTube channel is under the name “Anderstars.” Mullen follows Will on SnapChat and enjoys watching his Snaps.
“He puts videos of things he sees on campus that he thinks are funny, or he’ll put his trick shots, and it’s always just really fun to watch,” Mullen said.