Blue Bet on Himself, Now Reaping Rewards
He bought a one-way plane ticket from Lincoln to New York City, in search of an internship and uncertain of what the future would hold.
Today, Anthony Blue, the former Nebraska cornerback whose career was beset by two major knee injuries, lives in Brooklyn and travels the world as a multi-media artist in photography and animation, while also DJ-ing parties with popular artists like Migos and Big Boi. He’s photographed model and actress Amber Rose and singer-songwriter Solange Knowles, the younger sister of Beyonce’. He’s traveled to China to shoot a project for Adidas.
His gamble played dividends.
“It was an early lesson in investing in yourself,” Blue said. “That plane ticket, to see that plant grow from it … this is what it’s like to bet on yourself.”
Blue, honored on campus this week for Master’s Week by the Nebraska Alumni Association, has been sharing his story with various groups, including the Husker football team.
His message, especially to younger players in the program: Whatever your passion is beyond football, find it as soon as possible.
Blue discovered that importance during the spring of 2008. A Dallas native recruited by former coach Bill Callahan, Blue came to Nebraska because he knew the program would help fulfill his dream of playing in the National Football League.
“Football was everything,” Blue said. “I came here to play in the NFL. When that didn’t happen, so much more came from being open-minded and trusting.”
He found success in football early, particularly on special teams, and started two games as a true freshman in 2007. The following spring, though, Blue suffered his first of two ACL tears. The first injury alone made him wonder: What happens if this football thing doesn’t pan out?
Football had been the only activity to which Blue applied himself. He lived in the film room. He soaked in knowledge from players. He credits the Nebraska Life Skills Department for helping him realize he needed to expand his horizons.
The initial knee injury allowed Blue time to do just that, what with no practice times and fewer meetings.
“When that is removed,” Blue said, “you can channel that energy into something you’re truly interested in, but you have to find those interests early.”
Blue remembered a time in high school he took a liking to photography. So Nebraska’s academic support team helped him find classes that worked around his football schedule that would allow him to focus on a degree in art and graphic design.
“I just can’t thank you guys enough for that,” Blue told a group of counselors, tutors, academic advisors and Life Skills members Friday morning.
Blue remembers Life Skills helping him with his resume, and on his own accord, he began applying for internships, including a couple in New York. One place told him thanks, but no thanks – they didn’t need somebody flying all the way from Nebraska when they could snag someone locally much faster.
So Blue took off his Nebraska address on his next application, this one with a company that focused on photography, music videos and fashion.
“I just flew to the interview,” Blue said. “I didn’t tell them I was in Nebraska. I bought a one-way ticket, flew out there for the interview. They were like, ‘OK, can you start on Monday?’ So I stayed there for two weeks, I realized that I liked it.
“I flew back, packed up my car and drove back out.”
He’d never before been to New York, but he had a friend he knew in Brooklyn and crashed on his couch for a while. Then a former Nebraska teammate by the name of Prince Amukamara, playing for the New York Giants, invited Blue to live in his basement.
“He helped me out tremendously,” Blue said. “I’m interning, I’m not making money, and a friend, someone from our network, extended his home to me for rent-free while I’m able to work and get on my feet.”
(Blue later would take the pictures at Amukamara’s wedding).
“It was my first time in New York, just being bright-eyed and wanting to be in a place like that,” Blue said. “The energy was crazy. It was definitely liberating.”
Blue put some of his football experiences to use while trying to separate himself from many other interns. Like battling for a spot on a depth chart, Blue knew the little things mattered in trying to make himself stand out.
He also recalled an ex-NFL player coming to speak to the Nebraska team. His message: The more you know how to do, the harder it is for an employer to get rid of you.
The internship required Blue show up to work three times a week. He went every day. He did tasks beyond his job duties. He showed up on time, meaning he was always early to work and meetings.
“There were interns who would be late,” Blue said. “I was like, ‘They must not want it.’ ”
Six months later, the company hired Blue full-time.
He worked there for two years, soaking in knowledge and honing his skills before taking another shot: Taking what he’d learned and going out on his own as a freelance multi-media artist.
“Why not bet on myself?” Blue said.
Among his career highlights as a freelancer was his work with Adidas overseas.
“One of my friends shot the project the prior two years, and he was tired of going to China, and he recommended me for the job,” Blue said. “They wanted someone from New York to help shoot the project. I had a camera, and I was able to go see the world.”
As his love for music continued to grow, Blue began a side career as a DJ, working that job nightly while taking photos during the day. He has DJ'd parties with many popular artists including Migos, Virgil Abloh, Soulection, Big Boi, and more.
In 2015, he and a friend from Dallas decided to go on the road to DJ various events. They called it the “Believe in Yourself, Do it Yourself” tour, began in New York and visited 10 cities, including Lincoln and Omaha. They eventually formed a record company by the same name, and they recorded their original DJ mixes.
Their message to their audiences?
“You don’t need to wait for anybody to do the things you love,” Blue said. “If you’re serious about something, if you’re intentions are right, it will happen.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.