This post originally appeared on The Daily Nole on Aug. 21, 2017
One of the best Florida State alumni ever to play in the National Football League called it a career, according to reports from Sunday, as wide receiver Anquan Boldin retired prior to what would have been his 15th year in the league and with a fifth team.
Boldin would play for Florida State from 1999-02, helping the Seminoles win one national championship and three ACC crowns. Boldin was a highly-touted high school quarterback from Pahokee, who would go on to brutalize opposing defensive backs during his time at FSU and in the NFL.
“Anquan was one of the hardest working athletes I have known,” said former FSU center and 3-year teammate, David Castillo. “Of course he was a very gifted athlete. His leadership and selflessness separated him from many of the other athletes.”
Boldin, 36, finishes his NFL career ranked 14th all-time in receiving yards with 13,779 and ninth in receptions with 1,076. Boldin is also 23rd all-time in touchdown catches with 82 for his career.
“He wasn’t the fastest, but he was explosive and damn near impossible to jam,” said James Coleman, a former FSU fullback and Boldin’s teammate in 2002. “He was a hell of a competitor and that’s why he was great.”
Despite playing as part of a stacked receiving corps that included All-Americans Peter Warrick and Marvin “Snoop” Minnis along with Laveranues Coles, a future Pro Bowler and 10-year NFL veteran and Ron Dugans, Boldin made an impact as a freshman, finishing with 16 catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scores came in his first game — a 41-7 win over Louisiana Tech. FSU would go wire-to-wire as the nation’s No. 1 team to win the school’s second national championship and complete the only perfect season under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden.
“From the time Anquan Boldin stepped foot on FSU’s campus, his work ethic and desire was evident from day one,” said former FSU cornerback Tay Cody, a 2-year teammate of Boldin’s and a 2000 Consensus All-American.
With Warrick, Dugans and Coles all gone, Boldin took on a bigger role for the 2000 season, finishing third on the team in receiving behind the All-American Minnis and Atrews Bell. Boldin caught 41 passes for 664 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore while helping his quarterback, Chris Weinke, win the Heisman Trophy and his team get back to the BCS title game.
Twice that season, Boldin broke the 100-yard receiving mark. In a top-10 contest against rival Miami in the Orange Bowl, Boldin was key in engineering a comeback as FSU erased a 17-0 deficit to take the lead late before falling 27-24. Although the Seminoles lost, Boldin shined on the grand stage with six catches for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I grew up in South Florida at the same time as Boldin,” Castillo said. “(I) never played Pahokee while he was there, but his legend was well known by all. He was a year ahead of me and I use to see him in all the local newspapers and read the stories and it gave me inspiration.”
Prior to what was supposed to be Boldin’s junior year, the former signal-caller from Pahokee was set to move back to the position. Boldin looked to be in line for the team’s starting quarterback spot as he battled redshirt freshman Chris Rix for that job.
“What made him a special player is that he literally made everyone else around him better,” Coleman said. “He was so naturally gifted. I remember every pre-practice where quarterbacks and wide receivers warm up, he’d stand and Rix would throw as hard as he could and ‘Quan would catch it with one hand and then throw it back harder to the receiver that caught for quarterbacks.”
An unfortunate injury to Robert Morgan forced Boldin to move back out wide and Rix was given the starting nod. Less than two weeks before the season-opener against Duke, Boldin’s season ended before it could get started due to an ACL tear.
“I remember him wanting to play despite the tear, which simply isn’t possible for his position. It didn’t matter,” Castillo said. “He wanted to be there for the team. Despite him not being on the field, he remained a leader in the locker room. He worked relentlessly to rehab and get back on the field. He had a great season the following year.”
A great season it was for Boldin as a redshirt junior in 2002. Boldin led the Seminoles with 65 catches for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns. In what would be his final game at Doak Campbell Stadium, Boldin finished with eight catches for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 31-14 throttling of rival Florida.
“(He was) one of the most competitive players I’ve ever played with,” said Rix, a 3-year teammate of Boldin’s. “(He) always said he was open, even in double coverage. Funny thing is he was right.”
Despite a somewhat disappointing 9-4 finish to the regular season, Florida State had won the ACC for a ninth time in 10 years, which came with a Sugar Bowl berth against Georgia. The problem for Florida State entering the game was the quarterback situation. Adrian McPherson had been dismissed earlier in the year and Rix was suspended for the bowl game for missing an exam. That left Fabian Walker to start the game.
Walker found Boldin for the game’s first touchdown as FSU led briefly over the Bulldogs, 7-3, but that was short-lived. With an ineffective Walker feeling discomfort in his throwing shoulder and the Seminoles trailing 23-7, Boldin was given his first collegiate reps at quarterback in what would be his final collegiate game.
“He always had the team-first mentality,” Castillo said. “I think back to the bowl game against Georgia. Rix suspended, Walker hurt at quarterback and in comes Boldin to play QB for the first time since high school at Pahokee. He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win despite the unfavorable odds.”
FSU would end up on the short end of a 26-13 score, but Boldin gave the Seminoles hope. He finished the night 6-for-14 passing with 78 yards, which included a 40-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe on the final play of the third quarter to cut the lead to 10.
“His performance in the ’03 Sugar Bowl should say it all,” Coleman said. “Who can come in and play quarterback and almost win?”
Following an outstanding 2002 season that earned him second-team All-ACC honors, Boldin left for the NFL. In the 2003 NFL Draft, Boldin would be selected in the second round and 54th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he would play seven seasons.
Boldin was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 and would play in three Pro Bowls while with the Cardinals. In 2005, Boldin was snubbed despite leading the league in yards per game receiving. During his Pro Bowl season of 2008, Boldin finished with 1,038 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns for an Arizona team that reached the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
“He was without a doubt a first round talent, but I think NFL teams were concerned because of the injury to his knee,” Castillo said. “Look back now on his outstanding NFL career and think of all the NFL teams that must have kicked themselves for passing on him.”
Boldin would spend the next three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Boldin’s only world championship came in his final game with the Ravens — Super Bowl XLVII — against the San Francisco 49ers. Boldin finished with a team-high 104 yards receiving and the game’s first touchdown in a thrilling 34-31 victory in New Orleans.
“There are no words in my opinion that can describe him,” said former FSU wide receiver P.K. Sam, who played with Boldin for two years. “Unless you were a teammate of his, you can never fully appreciate how special he was. He truly earned and deserves every penny and award he received in the NFL.”
After beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl, Boldin joined them for the next three seasons. Following his last year in San Francisco in 2015, Boldin was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work in the community.
“Besides being a phenomenal athlete and teammate, he is an even better human being,” Castillo said. “He certainly belongs in the category of the Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunns. What he has done for Pahokee and all the communities near his NFL teams cannot be understated. He is without a doubt, the epitome of the type of role model an athlete should be on and off the field.”
Over his 14 years in the NFL, Boldin finished with at least 1,000 yards receiving seven times and never had fewer than 584 yards receiving in any season. Although a season-ending injury in 2001 may have hampered his production at FSU, his 65 catches and 1,011 yards receiving in 2002 still rank ninth all-time among receivers at Florida State for a single season. His 13 touchdown grabs that year ranks third.
“He deserves everything he has earned,” Cody said. “(He’s a) great player and great person, just a class act.”
As far at football goes, the only question remaining when it comes to Anquan Boldin will be whether or not his bust will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The numbers suggest that he has a pretty good case.
“He reminds me of the legendary athletes like Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James,” Castillo said. “They demand respect for not only their athletic ability and accomplishments but their work ethic, preparation, relentless drive to succeed, and how they made or make everyone on their team better.”