Memes Made Spice Adams More Famous Than the N.F.L. Could

“My kids are at a point now where if they see me walk through the door with an orange suit on and a wig they’re like ‘Hey, Dad,’” Adams said. “It’s nothing to them.”

By the time Adams decided to retire from the N.F.L., in March 2013, he had found the perfect vehicle for his personality — and forum for his announcement. In a video posted to (what else?) his YouTube account, Adams shows up at the “ritzy” location his agent has booked for his news conference, a White Castle restaurant, where he gives his speech to an empty room. At the end of the clip, Adams begins filling out a White Castle job application.

The video went viral.

“I pressed Enter on a keyboard to upload it on YouTube,” Adams said. “And then next thing I know, ESPN assignment desk was emailing me like, ‘Hey, can we put this up?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And then, by the time I walked in the living room, Trey Wingo was talking about it on ESPN.”

With his playing career over, Adams began working with a talent manager, Eddie Pietrucha, who had a track record of guiding athletes into traditional broadcast media. Adams got a spot as a commentator on a Chicago cable talk show, “Inside the Bears,” but Pietrucha sensed he would be more successful elsewhere.

“I sat down with Spice and his wife, and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know how long it’s going to take,’” Pietrucha recalled. “‘I don’t know where the road is going to go for you because you’re such a unique, talented individual. I don’t think you belong sitting behind a desk.’”

In 2016, Adams’s growing online profile netted him small roles on Comedy Central’s “Detroiters” and HBO’s “Ballers,” where a Whistle employee took notice of him and reached out via direct message.

“From the first time I talked to him, I could tell that he cared, he’s a family man, he wasn’t doing this for fame or for money,” said Josh Millan, a content manager at Whistle. “He was doing it to make people laugh. I think that resonates beyond anything else.”