Usually the first one out of the locker room because he’s not for many words, Anquan Boldin had plenty Friday after being named the Ravens’ Walter Payton Man of the Year.
The recognition is given annually to a player on each NFL team for his volunteer and charity work. A national winner will be chosen among the 32 team selections by judges, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Walter's widow, Connie Payton.
Boldin’s 10th season began slowly, but he has been quarterback Joe Flacco’s most consistent target. He led the team in receptions (65) and yards (921). He also had 4 TDs. This has been Boldin’s best statistical season in three years as he surpassed 10,000 career yards receiving.
“It’s an award for who you are beyond the field. What you do in the offseason. What you do in the community. How hard you work,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “All the things it takes to be great which epitomizes Anquan Boldin.”
Reluctant to be in the spotlight, in 2004 he started the Anquan Boldin Foundation (Q81.org), which has staged charitable activities in Baltimore as well as in Arizona and Florida. Boldin grew up in Pahokee, Fla., played college at Florida State and was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.
Boldin’s Q81 Foundation has provided after-school programs, college scholarships, dental care and food programs for disadvantaged children and Q-Fest, an annual fund-raising celebrity golf and basketball game. Boldin is an honorary chair of the United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Leaders United, and has supported military in conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project.
In April, Boldin went to Ethiopia with Larry Fitzgerald, a former teammate with the Cardinals. Though Boldin maintains a busy schedule with the Ravens and a wife and two young sons, all of whom were present Friday, he makes the time for charity.
“My family is involved in everything that I do. They’re the reason I do everything that I do. It’s easy for me. It’s not hard to make time for them,” Boldin said. “It’s not hard to make time to help others. They are part of what I do. Even when I take mission trips, like when I went to Africa, my wife was right there with me.”
The trip was eye-opening. And even when Boldin is done with football, his missions will continue. His faith requires it.
“It’s something that I’ve always done. My first year, I wanted to do everything behind the scenes. I didn’t start a foundation my rookie season. I didn’t want to get notoriety for what I was doing,” he said. “I didn’t feel like that was the way to go about it until somebody got in my ear and told me there’s a way you can do it and have others join you. …
“It opened up my eyes to a lot of things. Giving back has always been in my heart. It’s always something I wanted to do, even when I felt like I didn’t have enough to give.”