As a wide receiver with the Ravens, Anquan Boldin delivered in clutch situations. Boldin is still doing that as a retired NFL player who is deeply involved in social activism around the country.
He recently helped thousands of people gain easier access to COVID-19 vaccinations in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. and surrounding areas. The story of Boldin's successful efforts was reported by CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and his status as a hometown hero has been elevated to even greater heights.
Recognition has never been Boldin's primary objective, and this situation was no different. When he saw people in need, Boldin went into football mode. He became a difference-maker.
"I was really concerned," Boldin said during a telephone interview. "Down here in Florida, the governor was distributing the vaccine through the Publix grocery store chain. Where I'm from, the nearest Publix is 30 miles away. You have people in those communities that don't have transportation. Some people don't have internet access to get online to get an appointment. There were a lot of things preventing people in those areas from getting vaccinations.
"I contacted the governor's office. I have a friend, John Davis, who is Florida Secretary of the Lottery. We both played at Florida State, we're from the same hometown. I connected with him, we jumped on a call with the governor's office. Within a week, we had a vaccine site set up."
The vaccine site in Pahokee is Anquan Boldin Football Stadium, the complex named after the man who was a star NFL wide receiver for 14 seasons (2003-2016), including three years with Baltimore (2010-12), where he played crucial role in the 2012 playoff run that climaxed with the Ravens' victory in Super Bowl XLVII.
Imagine the pride the 40-year-old Boldin must feel when he sees people getting vaccinated at a stadium that's named after him, knowing that he played a critical role in making it happen. Again, Boldin says it's not about him. It's about helping others.
"I know people personally who've died from COVID – family members, close friends, friends of the family," Boldin said. "I know other people who've had severe symptoms, didn't die, but were hospitalized for weeks. Some of them are still dealing with symptoms. I understand that it's real. For me to see people getting the vaccine, getting some protection against this virus, means a lot."
Boldin is a co-founder of the Players Coalition, an organization that includes athletes from various sports who are dedicated to improving social justice and racial equality. As a retired athlete, he's still trying to make a difference. The subject of police brutality became personal for Boldin in 2015 when his cousin, Corey Jones, was shot to death by former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who was found guilty of first-degree murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years.
The scars from losing his cousin remain with Boldin, who said he cannot watch the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.
"For my sanity, I don't watch when that trial comes on television," Boldin said. "But I'm concerned. In spite of the clear evidence, we've seen officer after officer clearly be in the wrong and get off. I just hope justice is done."
Boldin does follow the Ravens closely, and he was excited when the Ravens signed Sammy Watkins, a veteran wide receiver who is coming to Baltimore hoping to add a missing ingredient to the offense. Boldin knows what that feels like, and he offered Watkins a piece of advice.
"I was so excited when I got traded to Baltimore, because I thought I could help win a championship," Boldin said. "The thing that allowed me to succeed was, I didn't try to do things exactly the same way I did it before. My advice to Sammy would be, find out how they do things with the Ravens, and be all-in with that.
"Lamar Jackson can throw the ball. You go back to what he did at Louisville, he's proven that he's not just an athlete playing quarterback, but he's a quarterback with athletic ability. I'm excited to see what happens next year."
While he's helping people in Florida get vaccinated, and working with the Players Coalition around the country, a piece of Boldin always remains in Baltimore, and with the Ravens.
"I played in Baltimore for three years, but it still feels like I was there the majority of my career," Boldin said. "That's because of the way I fit, and the way the city of Baltimore embraced me and my family from Day 1. I'll never forget that."