Anquan Boldin, finalist for the 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

The NFL honored the best the league has to offer tonight in Arizona, and although he didn’t win, Anquan Boldin was a finalist for the highest off-field award. The San Francisco 49ers’ receiver was one of three finalists for the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award which was won by Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers. The award is given to the athlete who best exemplifies the NFL’s mission to give back to the community through service and outreach in addition to their excellence on the field. With the award comes a $50,000 donation in the winner’s name to the charity of his choice from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

The Anquan Boldin Foundation (Q81), established in 2004, is dedicated to expanding the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged children. Since 2011, Q81 has been running a summer enrichment program to help students at the Everglades Preparatory Academy who need courses to catch up academically, providing them with credit-recovery curriculum, engaging guests speakers, and exciting field trips. Q81 also has a scholarship program for students in the Palm Beach and San Francisco area, allotting four $10,000 scholarships to needy students who demonstrated both academic excellence and leadership skills within their respective communities. The program has allotted 11 four-year scholarships so far, and is showing no signs of slowing down. The signature event of Q81 is the annual Q Festival, a free event that features over 30 NFL athletes and celebrities which raises over $100,000 each year. The event features a celebrity golf tournament, celebrity basketball game, 3K Fitness Walk and Wellness Seminar, and week-long community basketball tournament for all ages. In December, Boldin and his wife, Dionne pledged an additional $1 million to increase the impact their foundation has had on all recipients.

In addition to his work with underprivileged children, Anquan’s foundation also has aided needy families during the holiday season. The Foundation has provided holiday dinners, holiday shopping sprees, back to school items, technology equipment, football equipment, and youth football league trips to NFL games. Despite all of this, Anquan has decided that making a difference within his direct community is not enough.

Anquan has teamed up with Oxfam America since 2010, accompanying two overseas trips to Ethiopia and Senegal. He later used his testimony at the White House to lobby Senegalese rights. He sought to create more transparency within the gold mining industry, so he testified as an Oxfam Ambassador before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights on the issue. In addition to testifying on their behalf, Boldin also contributed over $10,000 in funding to assist the farming and livestock needs of the villagers while dedicating countless hours towards visits to the Ethiopia communities as well as participating in public service announcements.

Boldin’s resume on the football field is just as impressive, as this past season he lead his team in receptions (83) and yards (1,062) for the second year in a row. This season Boldin became the second receiver in NFL history to record 600 receiving yards in his first 12 seasons, joining only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Clearly Anquan Boldin embodied what Walter Payton, and this award, stood for, success on and off the field in all aspects of life.

The Man of the Year Award, which was renamed after Walter Payton in 1999, fields a nominee from each of the 32 NFL franchises every season. All 32 nominees receive a $5,000 donation from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide to a charity of their choice. Tonights’ other two finalists, Thomas Davis of the Panthers and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, each will receive an additional $10,000 donation to the charity of their choice respectively.