Anquan Boldin Explains What Winning NFL Man of the Year Means to Him

SAN FRANCISCO -- Anquan Boldin's NFL résumé includes a Super Bowl championship, three Pro Bowl selections and an AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

But on Saturday evening with the eyes of the world watching, the veteran wide receiver perhaps topped all of his past achievements.

At the fifth-annual NFL Honors award show in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Boldin took home the night's biggest prize: the 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Thought of by many as the most prestigious honor in the sport, the Man of the Year award recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

"I'm beyond humbled to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," Boldin said. "I used to dream that I could play like Walter Payton when I was growing up, but he became even more of an inspiration to me as I learned about his legacy as a humanitarian.

View photos from NFL Honors during Super Bowl 50 Week, where former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was named as a 2016 Hall of Fame selection and WR Anquan Boldin was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

"I commend the other 31 finalists throughout the National Football League who continue to use this platform to influence the lives of others in a positive way. May we continue to open our hearts and make an impact in our communities and throughout this world."

Boldin, a two-time finalist for the award, beat out New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson for this year's honor. Past recipients include all-time greats like Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Warren Moon, Junior Seau and John Elway. Boldin is the first San Francisco 49ers player to win.

"I think I speak for every other guy nominated when I say we don't do this for the awards, we do it because it's what in our hearts," Boldin said. "For me, football is momentary. Helping people lasts a lifetime. And honestly, it goes on even after your gone."

In the 12 years since he established the Q81 Foundation, Boldin has awarded college scholarships; handed out thousands of turkeys at Thanksgiving; purchased thousands more toys at Christmas; completed projects with Oxfam America, Wounded Warriors and the United Way; launched an eight-week summer enrichment program for students who need courses to catch up academically; and hosted an annual free, two-day festival for children in his hometown.

Boldin accomplishes this all through fundraisers and with his own money – he donated $1 million last year for future scholarships. He reflected on his long journey through the NFL during his acceptance speech.

"I just finished up my 13th season, and when I first got into the NFL, nobody could tell me anything," Boldin said. "I was living life like I had achieved all my dreams. But then I realized that my purpose in life wasn't to make it to the NFL and score touchdowns.

"God put me on this earth for something much bigger. … It's my prayer and my hope that I can live out the rest of my life helping as many people as possible."

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

After falling short as a finalist last season, Boldin carried a wave of support this year from players across the league campaigning for him to win. From 49ers teammate Torrey Smith to close friend and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to 2014 Man of the Year winner and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, Boldin had many in his corner.

Even Boldin's fellow finalists believed it was his time to shine.

"Me and Eli were talking about it like, 'Man, we already know Anquan is gunna win,'" Watson said. "But it's just an honor to be here alongside him. I really respect who Anquan is obviously as a player, but as a man as well."

Boldin thanked the 49ers organization as well as everyone involved in his foundation and of course, his wife, Dion, who he called his backbone and partner in crime.

"I know I'm here receiving this award, but there should be a line of people standing alongside me because my foundation doesn't work without them," Boldin said. "They do it from the bottom of their heart. They do it because that's what they want to and feel it's right."

As anyone who has spent time around Boldin knows, the veteran wideout typically shies away from the media spotlight. But winning the Man of the Year Award is different. He knows the attention will only help further his cause long after his playing days are complete.

"It brings a lot of eyes to what the foundation does and gives it credibility," Boldin said. "If someone is on the fence about helping and joining in and then they see this honor, maybe that will push them over."

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