Annie Apple, Mother of New York Giants first round draft pick El Apple, has been making quite a name for herself. Recently hired as an ESPN analyst, she also has her own column in SI.com. She has been facing some heat in recent weeks due to her strong comments about Giants Owner John Mara about the domestic violence controversy with former kicker Josh Brown. “His comments were insensitive, dismissive, and callous.” Mrs. Apple said in her article referring to Mara’s comments on Brown. She went on to share her personal experience with domestic violence, including a time she explained how she was hit in front of her two older children while pregnant with another. That unborn child would later grow to be Eli Apple. Mrs. Apple ultimately left that abusive relationship before Eli was born, but it was incidents such as this one that not only left a lasting effect on her life but also on the lives of her two children that witnessed. This past weekend, she visited Ohio State where she was greeted with a standing ovation for her courageous act by the Buckeye Mothers before the game. She has always dedicated herself to her sons’ football career and has been a huge support to help him come as far as he has. Was she wrong for speaking up on this issue despite the fact that it could put her son in an uncomfortable situation? In this article Annie’s oldest son, now 26-year-old Daniel Blackson, speaks out about his mother’s comments. Not only does he give his personal opinion on why she felt the need to speak on the topic, but he also explains the effects it could have on Eli’s career as well. Who is this family? What motivated them to get to this point? What does the future hold, not only for Eli, but for Annie and Daniel as well? In this interview Daniel explains it all.
Q: What was it like for your family growing up in Ghana?
A: “I mean growing up for them was rough and definitely as uncomfortable as it sounds, especially back then when times were different. My grandma was a missionary that traveled a lot preaching the word of God. Through a church visa, she got the opportunity to travel to America and bring my mom, aunt, and uncle with her. I’m the first child born in America so I witnessed a lot of our struggle here and was old enough to understand it. I’m the black sheep of the family I was born to be different.”
Q: What led to your family’s move to America?
A: “I like to think that destiny led us here to America. This is the land of opportunity, and Lord knows that’s all we ever needed. We are from Ghana West Africa we shouldn’t have made it this far but we did. There was actually a war going on in Ivory Coast that wiped out more than half of the population. But because of the church visa my family was in America during that time. They were eventually granted an asylum to stay in America and fast forward many years later everyone’s getting a taste of the America dream.”
Momma and the Boys! (From Left To Right: Dane Blackson, Annie Apple, Devion Apple and Eli Apple)
Q: What’s the dynamic of your family like? Who is the voice of reason when things get tough? What things bring you guys closer together?
A: “In the years to come I anticipate our family to be one of the most influential and talented families of all time. Whenever we all get together it’s honestly like a movie. There’s so much life, wisdom and positive energy in the room. An artist, a NFL cornerback, and a broadcaster/journalist all in one family, trust me we always have something to talk about. Different occasions bring us together. It’s definitely different these days, everyone’s busy making moves and on the go we all have so much going on but technology and social media keep us close. When things get rough we all go to my stepdad, Tim. He’s put in over 18 years raising me and my siblings he’s a big piece of our family. The biggest and first Apple he sacrificed so much for us, more than anything I just want to make him proud and see him smile! I call him ‘Boss man’ because he’s always making moves pulling the strings and motivating us. You don’t hear about him too much he’s a very low-key kind of guy but he’s played a big part in why we are the positive, strong-minded, and well-rounded young people we are today. I try to follow his lead and be that source of positive energy and good influence whenever it’s needed in my family. Someone everyone can go to when they need to talk or maybe just to listen.”
Q: When your Uncle Michael Blackson’s popularity started to grow, what was that like on the rest of the family?
A: “Uncle Mike was the first person in our family to show us anything was possible. I remember like it was yesterday when Next Friday first came out. He couldn’t go anywhere without people yelling ‘you modasuckaaaaaa’ and they still do it to this day honestly. We loved packing our game up and going to Uncle Mike’s house. He was always the life of the party. Seeing his lifestyle made us all even hungrier for success even if they won’t admit it. He inspired us; we learned through Mike that with hard work and consistency we could have that life too.”
Q: What are some of the things that led your family members to the path of the professions they’re in right now?
A: “Growing up I always had a love for music but it wasn’t always my main focus. We lived in Philadelphia and New York before settling into New Jersey where we would all grow and explore our talents. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to go to school for acting. I took the bold step of getting into theatre at school. It wasn’t always cool to do stuff like that but I enjoyed playing someone else and big stages never frightened me. I developed character living in New Jersey but still kept the mentality I had picked up from previous surroundings in Philadelphia and New York. When I graduated from high school I wanted to go to New York Film Academy but at the time it was too expensive. I decided I’d take a year off to save up but in that time I fell in love with music. I met some key people that helped me perfect my craft. Over time I began hearing music differently, developing my own sound and uniqueness. I studied everyone’s come up. Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, T.I, 50 Cent who is one of my personal favorites. Once that book the 50th law came out man I read it from end to end. Wiz Khalifa don’t even get me started and I can’t forget Big Sean. I rapped for him at Wired 96.5. That’s a crazy story how I ended up rapping for him in an elevator at 96.5 the same way he got discovered by Kanye West! No story book ending because I never got a callback but the experience changed my life. Eli played football from a young age and he always stuck with it. From little league all the way up to the pros. As he got older he began to master his craft and throughout the tri state area his name got bigger and bigger. People would come to Eastern High School and know that boy Eli Apple is over there. It’s no surprise to me he is where he is. At a young age he figured out exactly what he wanted to do and went after it. He always treated it like a business and took care of it. Now that he is NFL don’t expect that to change, expect him to rise to every occasion. With E what you see is what you get, he might not speak too much he likes to give what’s needed in the interviews and let his game do the talking. Just know he didn’t come this far to just come this far. My mom has always had that unique personality that everyone can’t help but love. She is a proud graduate of La Sale University where she has degrees in communication and English. When we lived in New York she worked at NBC as a journalist and producer so for the most part she’s always been on this path. With all the football parents from Eastern to Ohio State she brought them all together and built more of a union between them all. We would host different tailgates and family prayers before tip-off. My mom has always been involved and I think the sky is the limit for her. Every year I anticipate her evolving and expanding her brand and making bigger and better moves every time.”
Dane Blackson, Jordan and Eli in selfie mode!
Q: How has your mom adjusted to working for ESPN? When did she start using twitter to build her brand?
A: “I felt like it was somewhere around the Ohio state days if I had to ball park it, around 2013-2014. I mean it was like one day we were teaching her how to use her iPhone and overnight she became a Twitter kingpin. I know a lot of people aren’t pleased about her comments towards Giants owner (John Mara). It caused a lot of controversy. It put Eli in a tough position mentally and potentially in the locker room as well. If you read my mom’s response in SI then you understand why domestic violence is such a touchy subject. Honestly from a big brother perspective I think this whole situation grants them both the opportunity to separate a little and flourish in their own fields. It allows Eli to build his own brand. I think since he’s gotten drafted when they think of one they automatically think of the other. My mom is going to do her, she’s going to speak up on different topics and issues especially now because that’s her job. I think if it were someone on another team it wouldn’t have been so much controversy but since it was one of Eli’s teammates that kind of changed everything. Over the years I’ve learned every potential ‘negative’ situation possesses and opportunity for a positive outcome. People are just slow to get it but it’s all about perspective in my opinion.”
Q: What was the recruiting process like for Eli? What made him ultimately choose Ohio State?
A: “A lot of teams wanted Eli but it wasn’t about them it was about his best interest. A lot of people wanted Eli to go to Rutgers for obvious reasons. People felt like it was close to home also it was where Eastern High School alumni Logan Ryan played ball before getting drafted to the New England Patriots. Shout out to Logan Ryan too by the way and Eastern High School. Eli, Logan, Olympic gold medalist English Gardner, and myself all went to Eastern High and left to do so many great things. But my parents and Eli both thought Ohio State was the best fit. Urban Meyer produces well-rounded successful athletes. Being around their program I was like a little sponge, watching how they all interacted and handled situations. I believe that any athlete, no matter what position you play, after leaving his team you are put in a better position to succeed in life regardless if that leads to the NFL or not.”
Q: When did you and your family realize that Eli could possibly be an NFL player and 1st round pick?
A: “You know before the draft there was a lot of speculation, you’re sitting around reading all these different mock draft predictions but nothing can prepare you for a draft honestly. I knew Eli was going to go in the first round I just didn’t know when. After the combine seeing him flex doing one hand catches and all that it reassured me. He made everyone a believer every day since the announcement that he was entering the draft. I’ve been telling him it’s destiny for a long time. I think I make him believe in destiny a little more every day!”
Dane Blackson on the phone..The usual
Q: How have things changed for your family since Eli has been drafted? What is it like seeing your brother play for the Giants considering you guys grew up in New Jersey?
A: “Honestly there was no scenario in my head where he was staying close to home. Eli liked the west coast a lot and around that time he was doing a lot of training out west. And Ohio State was about an 8 hour drive from New Jersey, give or take. But the way Tim drove I felt like I would take a nap and wake up at the Shoe. Life has definitely changed since Eli got drafted to the Giants. We are in South Jersey right across the bridge Philadelphia so a lot of our friends are die-hard Eagles fans. So it’s an agree to disagree conversation with a lot of our friends but overall it’s truly a blessing. Sometimes I’m still in shock when I pull up to MetLife stadium. Sometimes I close my eyes and think ‘damn little bro made it all the way to the Giants.’ Then I quickly snap out of it because I know there’s a time to smell the roses but the time is not now. I just want to keep everyone in my family positive, motivated and on the up.”
Q: What advice have you given to Eli to help him through his journey?
A: “I’m here to introduce Eli in a new light. Eli is not your everyday rookie coming into this league. If I let the media tell it I’m not sure what they would tell you. So I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret, he not some defenseless momma’s boy that just so happened to get into the league. No, this is Eli Apple, the same kid that’s been locking dudes up for years. Won a ring with Ohio State his freshman year. Oh the next year you might have seen him again as Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP and now 10th overall pick to the New York Giants. I’ll pick you up and we will take a trip to the tri state and ask about Eli Apple they know what’s up. It’s going to be interesting to watch him develop and play with that chip on his shoulder. He’s transitioning into the NFL and I expect him to keep getting better as the weeks progress. He knows right from wrong, he’s extremely mature for his age and he recognizes the moment. The only advice I’ve needed to give Eli was to keep going!”
Q: Working for your uncle, what were some of the things you learned that allows you to be able to manage yourself at this point in your career?
A: “Working with him I was paid in experience that will benefit me for the rest of my life. Learning different aspects of the industry, seeing how people react to you, the type of energy you need around you to put yourself in the right position to be successful. Whether it was something I felt like I could do better or something about the way he moved that I thought was brilliant, I always had a student mentality because one day this information would become resourceful. I’ve seen so much from so many different perspectives and I use all the experience to my advantage. No matter how big my family and I become you can always count on me to be the humble voice of reason.
Q: As you’re starting to make your own path in the music industry, what’s next for you?
A: “For me I’m working smarter than ever. Surrounded by so many greats in my family the expectations are already so high and I’m ready to exceed them all. Right now my main focus is making timeless music that everyone can appreciate. We need more hip hop artists to use their platform to promote positivity and that’s what I’m here to do. My next project will be hosted by Dj Motor Mane from Taylor Gang but I’m still currently talking to different labels in search of the right major platform to launch my campaign. I’m sitting on the best project a new artist has released in years! Someone out there wants to invest into the next big thing and when I find them I’ll be ready. In the meantime keep an eye out for my new documentary series as well ‘Black Apple’ and expect to see a lot of Dane Blackson in 2017.
Michael Blackson, Dane Blackson and Momma Apple sneakin’ in the cut
This family epitomizes the story of the underdog, people that have risen from a tough situation and made the most out of their second opportunity. Just hearing the way Dane speaks about his family it’s easy to see the love that they share. The position that Eli was put in is unfortunate, but Annie needed to use her platform on a subject that hit close to home for her. But as Dane said, they’ve been linked together for much of their early careers and maybe this allows them to flourish and separately build their brands in from a professional standpoint. And that doesn’t hinder their mother/son bond, that’s a love that can never be affected. As Annie, Eli, and Dane all progress in their careers, the sky is the limit for every one of them. I, for one, will be interested in seeing their success unfold for many years to come.
This article was written by Quan Jackson. Quan is a Lead Writer for Super Two Sports. From New Jersey, Quan is a NBA junkie. He earned his Bachelors degree in Sports Marketing from Saint Joseph’s University in 2014. Quan has previous experience as the lead NBA writer for http://isportsweb.com covering the Knicks and Nets. Follow Quan on Twitter for analysis and discussion.