San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin has been named one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide, for the second consecutive year. One of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
Each of the 32 team nominees receives a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice. The two runner-ups will receive an additional $6,000 donation, and the winner will receive a $50,000 donation. Donations will be courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Last year's winner, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, recently gave Boldin a ringing endorsement.
"He's very much deserving," Davis said. "It's tremendous what he's doing in the community. The lives he's been able to impact, it leaves me in awe."
Two of Boldin's closest friends, Torrey Smith and Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald, also voiced their support for his candidacy.
"I'm planning on him winning it," Smith said. "The impact he's had in Arizona, obviously back home in Florida, in Baltimore and now here. It's crazy. He's so spread out. There are not many players that can say that.
"What Anquan has done is really unique and it's going to continue to live on longer than his playing days here. And that says a lot because I think he's a Hall of Famer."
"I just have a great respect for him – playing with him for so many years and getting to know him as a man," Fitzgerald said. "I'm honored and privileged to be able to call him a friend. He's taught me a lot on and off the field. Just to see him and his wife be able to continue to do the work that they do, it's truly encouraging."
The winner will be announced during the 5th Annual NFL Honors Awards show, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on CBS on February 6, the night before Super Bowl 50, from 6-8 p.m. PT at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints are the other two finalists.
Boldin told NFL Network what winning the award would mean to him.
"Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton, it's a good thing," Boldin said. "I'm definitely elated to be honored. I've been blessed to be in this position, and I see people out there who are struggling and have real-life problems. It's my obligation to help."
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Boldin etched his name in the NFL record books multiple times throughout the 2015 season. In Week 16, Boldin recorded his 1,000th career reception, becoming one of only 13 players in NFL history to reach that milestone. Boldin is also the first player in NFL history to record 50-or-more receptions and at least 600 yards receiving in each of his first 13 NFL seasons. He finished the 2015 season with 69 receptions for 789 yards and four touchdowns. Throughout his career, Boldin has been honored with NFL Man of the Year nominations four times by three different teams. Boldin is responsible for establishing the Anquan Boldin (Q81) Foundation, which for 12 years has been dedicated to expanding the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged children. Through grassroots efforts by Boldin, the foundation has showcased charitable activities in Phoenix, Baltimore, South Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area, developing a niche for awarding scholastic and community achievement in youth, as well as distributing four-year college scholarships to deserving high school seniors. In 2014, the three-time Pro Bowl selection and his wife, Dionne, donated $1 million to the Q81 Foundation for continued distribution of college scholarships. That same year, the NFLPA awarded Boldin and his foundation $100,000 for winning the prestigious Byron "Whizzer" White Award. Boldin's foundation was also awarded $25,000, when he was named a 2015 Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award finalist, the only NFL player to be acknowledged.
Furthermore, the 13-year veteran recruits fellow NFL players and celebrities to participate in the annual Q-Festival, a weekend of free entertainment provided to residents and participating fans in his Florida hometown of Palm Beach County, raising more than $100,000 annually. Other seasonal services provided through the foundation include Thanksgiving giveaways, holiday shopping sprees and back-to-school donations.
Boldin's philanthropic endeavors have also had a global impact. Since 2010, he has worked with Oxfam America, taking two overseas trips to Ethiopia and Senegal and later using his testimony at the White House to lobby Senegalese rights.