Twitter launches Utah actor Wilford Brimley back into spotlight with 'diabeetus' reference

Do Wilford Brimley and Andy Reid look like the same person? (Photo: Twitter)

Wilford Brimley, the senior, mustached actor living in Payson, Utah, has become something of a viral sensation after Kansas City Chiefs coach, and Brimley lookalike, Andy Reid won the Super Bowl.

Ellie Schnitt of Barstool Sports started it all with her Tweet asking: "serious question is the chiefs coach the "diabeetus" guy (sic)"

The "diabeetus" spelling of diabetes, was a reference to the actor's every-man pronunciation of the disease that he shares with many Americans suffering from elevated blood sugar.

Brimley, who is no stranger to Twitter but doesn't have verified status on his account, quoted her tweet on his own, which has now earned 300,000 likes — and counting. He said simply:

Ellie, no. I am the 'dibeetus' guy.

The commercials about diabetes were from Liberty Medical, delivered in his familiar, man-you've-known-all-your-life manner that made him an effective pitchman. He didn't appear to be making a commercial so much as speaking directly to the viewer — as a friend.

In Hollywood, Brimley is probably best known for his role in "Cocoon," a charming, hit science fiction film about a group of seniors who discover a swimming pool that grants them renewed youth, thanks to aliens.

He also notably plays a baseball manager in "The Natural," starring Robert Redford and was in John Carpenter's horror classic, "The Thing." While he has a long list of movie credits, Schnitt knew him from the "diabeetus" commercials, and apparently so do a lot of other people.

Brimley's low-key approach played well with Twitter. An hour before the Schnitt tweet, he also posted a picture of Reid in a Kansas City ball cap with the understated one-liner: "Supposedly I'm coaching this evening?" That tweet has over 40,000 likes and 4,000 retweets.

An hour after the Schnitt tweet he said in response to KFC at Barstool — who expressed shock on his own Twitter account that Schnitt knew the diabeetus joke and that Brimley replied — Brimley replied again:

Sir, I'm shocked this generation still knows who I am.

If they didn't know before, they know now. Brimley's following rose from 45,000 to 50,000 in just a short time Monday. And lots of other tweets about Brimley were helping him "blow up Twitter," according to the narrative.

It isn't the first time Brimley has been popularized in social media. The actor was 50 when he played a senior in the "Cocoon," films and so the "Brimley/Cocoon line" was created for people to compare themselves with at the same age.

Diagnosed with diabetes in 1979, he was honored by the American Diabetes Association in 2008 for his service to the cause.

Like Brimley, Reid has strong ties to Utah County. He started his coaching career at BYU and remains close to many in the football program. It is not clear if the two men have ever met, but after Monday's social media surprise, perhaps they will be hired to pitch products together.