(Al Golub/ZUMAPRESS.com)
(Al Golub/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Immune to the Haters

The 49ers made a deal for the man who torched them in the Super Bowl. What they've gotten from Anquan Boldin goes well beyond the skills he displayed last February

By
Jim Trotter
· More from Jim·

Reading the comments beneath a story is often a journey through Trollville, where faceless residents send rivers of shocking vitriol flowing through the streets. Still, there are occasions when the remarks are more insightful than infuriating. One such instance occurred in 2009, when the Palm Beach Post wrote about Pahokee High School’s new football field being named after Anquan Boldin, the local boy who became a star in the NFL.

“This decision was FITTING and PROPER for one of our own,” the comment began. “Mr. Boldin has and still is representing Pahokee High School and the City of Pahokee with superlative standards. The Anquan Boldin Q81 Foundation annually gives to the youth in Pahokee, Pahokee High School and the City of Pahokee. We are proud of you Anquan, you make us feel good. There can be only one, you are the right one. A GREAT DECISION PAHOKEE!!”

The respect for Boldin isn’t limited to his hometown. It can also be found throughout the NFL, where Boldin is considered a man’s man and a pro’s pro. It’s not just what he does, like returning to the field just three games after being knocked unconscious and having reconstructive facial surgery from a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2008. It’s also how he does his job, with a steady professionalism that sets the standard for everyone else—a point that’s particularly significant to the 49ers, who sent a sixth-round pick to Baltimore to acquire Boldin in an offseason trade.

San Francisco, which has played in back-to-back NFC Championship Games and advanced to the Super Bowl last season, is seasoned at every position but wideout. With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out with injuries, Boldin’s 137 career starts are 84 more than the combined total for the 11 other healthy receivers on the roster. None in that group has started more than 17 games.

The role of mentor is one that Boldin neither seeks nor runs from. He won’t impose himself on others, but he will divulge everything he has learned over the past 10 seasons—the first seven with Arizona before being traded to Baltimore—if a teammate is interested.

“Q has been so good with the younger guys, trying to teach them how to be professionals,” says fourth-year receiver Kyle Williams. “He’s not just teaching them what to learn, but how to learn it, how to learn concepts and how you can see certain things in coverages. I think his whole mentality, his whole approach to this game is something we all can learn something from. He’s so serious about it. He doesn’t play around. I mean, he’ll joke around. It’s not like he’s a hard guy to be around or anything. But it’s all business with him. That’s something to be admired and a standard for young guys who are looking for someone to model their game after or their mentality after. There may not be another guy that you want a group of young guys to learn from.”

'A Grown Man'

Peter King visited 49ers training camp earlier this offseason, and was taken aback by the sight of Anquan Boldin in a 49ers jersey. He wrote about the impact Boldin will have on the Super Bowl contenders.

Talk may get someone’s attention, but production is what holds it. Boldin’s achievements include most receptions in a rookie season (101), most receiving yards in the first game of a career (217) and most receptions in a player’s first 26 games (157). He’s the fastest in NFL history to pull down 400 career receptions (67 games), as well as the fastest to 500 (80 games) and 600 (98 games).

What he lacks in speed he makes up for with quickness, toughness, vise-lock hands and a MENSA football IQ. Last February in Super Bowl XLVII he had a game-high six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, helping the Ravens outlast the 49ers, 34-31. If a big play needed to be made, he made it. On consecutive possessions late in the second half—after San Francisco had cut a 28-6 deficit to five and two points, respectively—he picked up 30 yards on 3rd-and-3 to help set up a field goal, then 15 yards on 3rd-and-1 to position Baltimore for another field goal.

The beauty of Boldin’s game is that even when he appears to be covered, he’s not. “He’s so strong that he knows how to get the ball in traffic,” says cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who has known Boldin since they attended the same football camp in high school. “He’s like one of those basketball players who, even if he’s double-teamed in the post, knows how to fight and position himself to hold onto the ball. You can’t sleep on him.”

I’ve never liked for a coach to tell me, ‘You’ve got it.’ I want to be pushed and challenged every day.”

Yet Boldin’s value cannot be measured solely in statistics. He brings toughness and tenacity to the offense and the locker room. The next time he shies away from a block will be the first. The next time he pulls a verbal punch will be the only time. For instance:

• After striving to win a championship for 10 years, including a Super Bowl loss with Arizona, which was better, the reality or the fantasy of winning a title? “The reality—and then some. I don’t care what anybody says, unless you win a championship you don’t feel complete as a player.”

• After getting a ring, is the hunger still there? “For me it doesn’t change. That’s the reason why I didn’t go to the ring ceremony at the White House. If you take time to celebrate, you kind of lose that edge, lose that hunger.”

• On being a mentor: “The guys that are successful in this league, they take heed. The guys that don’t, they fall by the wayside.”

• How does he like to be coached? “I’ve never liked for a coach to tell me, ‘You’ve got it.’ I want to be pushed and challenged every day.”

In San Francisco, Boldin will be challenged by offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who has one of the game’s most creative minds. How will Boldin fit into the 49ers’ scheme? Will he run the same type of layered routes that he did in Baltimore? Roman isn’t one to get too specific about how a player will be used.

One Year Later

The 49ers are, like last year, a Super Bowl threat. But to get there, they'll have to rely on a much different pass-catching crew than the one who led them to the big game in 2012. Find out more in The Season.

“We’re always going to look at the player and what the player does well and adapt the offense to the player,” Roman says. “He’s a pretty easy guy to adapt to. He’s so smart and he’s a strong, physical guy who can make the plays short, make the plays deep. If you put it near him he’s probably going to make a play. He has great ball skills. He has such a strong will to get it done.”

Boldin is proud of his accomplishments on the field, but he takes greater pride in what he has done to help kids in his hometown. That’s why each offseason he returns to Pahokee for a weekend fundraiser known as Q-fest. His foundation, Q81 Foundation, has partnered with Florida Crystals Corp. to fund a summer program that gives high school students a chance to catch up academically through computer-based credit recovery courses.

“Anquan has made countless plays on the field, but the man he is off the field is what makes him so special,” says former Cardinals teammate Larry Fitzgerald. “Q continues to inspire the children from that area, and that’s much bigger then any touchdown he will ever catch—and he has caught a lot of them in the biggest of moments. He just won’t turn his back on [the kids].”

“I love football, but one day that ends,” Boldin says. “My foundation is something that will carry on when I’m done, and others will benefit from that. It has a lasting effect. I care about my name. I care about how it’s carried, how it comes out of other people’s mouth. And I believe if you’re going to put your name on something, you have to be involved.”

That type of attitude is not only why Boldin is so valuable to a team and a community, but also why he has the respect of everyone, from the NFL to Trollville.

21 comments
OK
OK

Nice to see that Dean Spanos's Personal Bee Rhymes With Sandwich has again been allowed to post on MMQB's Spin Site.

Trots, be sure to level with all your loyal SI readers about the means by which Mr. Spanos compensated you (offshore, of course) for that darling missive of a couple of weeks back.

http://mmqb.si.com/2013/08/16/qualcomm-stadium/

pooterpita
pooterpita

If the 49ers think they have "Haters", try being a Cardinals fan. I was born and raised a Cowboy fan since my family is actually from Texas. But the day the Cards got here I became a Cardinal fan. Going to a game and seeing more of the other teams jerseys than your own sucks. I don't think it was because of the Cardinals being bad but because Phx is a transplant City. Also Phx inherited a team. If we had a NEW franchise, it would have been different I think. People could have gotten behind them easier. Cards got here in 1988 and the people that were here already had teams. People that move here now already have teams. It took a while to build a fan base. 

Bill Bidwill and the Bidwill family being the only NFL team that makes 100% of their income from football and wouldn't spend money. Now Michael is in charge and understands they can make MORE money if they win. Going to a Super Bowl changed that mentality in a good way. We have more fans now but not like we should.  

zaaque86
zaaque86

Sorry! At least the Buffalos know there place this time around!

zaaque86
zaaque86

At the Buffalo's know there place this time around!

ScottWestra
ScottWestra

One of my favorite Seminoles of all time. Saw him play in high school as an unreal QB. Was happy to have read this story. He's pretty incredible. 

Phroggo
Phroggo

Hopefully he can teach Baldwin a thing or two.

iclasticons
iclasticons

Boldin is a class act. The combo of him and Fitzgerald was spectacular, when they had Warner pitching it to them.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Best trade of the off season--easily.

AndrewHutchinson
AndrewHutchinson

The type of player that drives you crazy when he is on the other team. When it is time for a big play, you've got him covered, he catches it anyway.  It will be interesting to see if he slows down or not; he sure isn't beating anyone with his speed.

DonDerflinger
DonDerflinger

I've followed him since the Cardinals days too. Loved him then, couldn't believe it when my Ravens picked him up and still love him!  Unbelievable talent and more importantly a great human.

SandbagSix
SandbagSix

Great player, all the way around. I've respected his toughness since his Arizona days.

charleslfreemn
charleslfreemn

@OK Jim Trotter didn't write a single false word about the conditions at Qualcomm Stadium and the NFL should be embarrassed that one of its franchises is playing in such a dump, charging fans FULL prices and not doing anything more than trying to fleece the citizens of San Diego into paying for a new stadium.

The problem is that San Diego has neither the money nor the desire to give the Spanos' a new stadium. If it's such a great deal, why haven't the Spanos family done like Robert Kraft and built it themselves after all these years? They thought that the whole threat of moving to LA was going to work in the favor, but I'll let you in on a little secret: the only people in LA who really want the Chargers or any NFL team to move here are the ones who want to build the stadium and make money from it. No one, and I mean NO ONE among the fans in LA truly cares about an NFL team playing here. Our Sundays (and Mondays and Thursdays) are just fine the way they are now.

pooterpita
pooterpita

@DavidHarteLOL, not even close! Boldin will catch 800 yards and 6 TD's. If that is the best Trade than there will never be another NFL trade again. I am a Cards fan and KNOW Boldin from his Rookie camp in AZ. He is not a #1 Wide out. He is a over the Middle fast tight end type. He needs a person on the other side to stretch the Defense down field. One thing that Crabtree was to do but obviously won't. Boldin can't make the impact that he could make. The guy played with a broken face. He is hard core but break down last few years and he will be great two games and then not catch a ball for 2 games. 

He MUST have a speedster on the other side like Fitzy for him to be productive. 

YemiThaBassMan
YemiThaBassMan

@AndrewHutchinson He's never beaten anyone with his speed. He's clutch. Someone who you can count on making it happen. This Niners fan is glad to cheer for him this year. Especially after what happened in February...grrrr.

OK
OK

@charleslfreemn

Chuckie,

Jimmy Trotter's on Dean Spanos's offshore payroll. Trotter typed that San Diego stadium column on his knees and then ran to his Internet connection to see if and when he got paid.

If you want to defend that Punk, Trotter, or his Boss, Spanos, go right ahead. But you'll get only venom from me.

There was a time when Sports Illustrated would've fired the likes of Trotter for such blatant public relations hasbara. But with Peter King all over the website, SI's gone the way of Bristol and bows to the bucks - the more offshore, the better.

No mercy here, Chuckie. Spin that crap somewhere else.

donniejohnson4
donniejohnson4

@pooterpita @DavidHarte Boldin's dip in productivity with Baltimore had more to do with Flacco's limitations, than his own.  When Flacco finally realized what he had in Boldin, cue 11 TDs, no picks, and a world championship.

Hank4
Hank4

Will Anquan have the same numbers he had last year? Probably not, but that won't be because he's not one of the best at his position. It's because the Niners are first, last and always a run-first team. He'll do exactly what the Niners had in mind for him: be the dependable 3rd down receiver who will move the chains. Be the guy who can take the ball away from the CB/S in the end zone. Be a mentor and a leader on the offense. As a Niners fan since the early '60s, I couldn't be happier they picked him up.

pooterpita
pooterpita

@donniejohnson4 @pooterpita @DavidHarte Sorry nice thinking but go back and look at the game stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/gamelog/_/id/4512/anquan-boldin

Also look at who was playing when he had big games? or well average big games? Boldin did great in the playoff's, you can't deny that at all. You also have to understand their receiving corp was 100% healthy as well. He had that 2nd WR drawing people off for him. You take away his Post Season and he is cut for 2013, not traded.  

His 2012 season was #2 to more #3 WR at best. I love the guy but he just isn't a number 1 receiver. Read take your eye off the ball by Pat Kerwin. Boldin's numbers will be down again. Sorry. 

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