With media coverage that runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week, professional athletes are characterized a certain way by the media. The pampered, egocentric, entitled multi-millionaires are out there, but there are plenty of great players out there who are even better people.
Anquan Boldin is one of those athletes.
From his humble beginnings in Pahokee, Florida, Boldin has made sure he never forgot about the importance of paying it forward. He was the host for the Q81 Foundation Fundraiser and Celebrity Banquet Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The event was a celebration of Boldin's impressive 10-year career with all proceeds from the $300 plate dinner going to Boldin's Q81 Foundation.
There was a silent auction of sports memorabilia, including signed helmets from Brett Favre, Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III. Tons of jerseys including Boldin's familiar 81, Jerry Rice, Gale Sayers, Kurt Warner, Eli Manning, Marshall Faulk, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. Raffle tickets were sold as more Raven's gear was up for grabs after the end of the auction.
There were dozens of more examples of memorabilia that included photos, equipment, autographs and experience packages that all benefited an amazing cause. Anquan Boldin was of course the center of attention and was a humble and accommodating host.
"Baltimore has welcomed me with open arms, and the Ravens have been so generous with their time and resources," said Boldin pausing for photo opportunities with the gushing Raven faithful. "Giving back" was the common theme for Boldin as he held court with the attendees of the evening. While I was fruitlessly battling for more face time with the host, there were other Ravens' players in attendance also lending their time and their support.
Ed Reed looked every bit the rock star with a cascade of admirers, particularly female, wanting a picture and a hug from the All-Pro safety. When I finally was able to wade through the sequined cocktail dresses for some words with Reed, he was very humble and gracious about Boldin's charity and the cause.
"The biggest thing I have to say is about the organization and the guys that we have," said Reed. "We're raising men, you know, the younger guys that come in here, they see guys like Anquan, myself, Ray (Lewis and/or Rice), Vonta (Leach), Bernard (Pollard), you know, guys that have been around. You get good guys like that, who are grown men, who are more mature and understand what it's truly about."
He continued, "Being in the city that has given so much to us, we've got to give something back." When I asked him how his shoulder was feeling he laughed hard, "It's all right, you know, everybody's sore right now. But I'll be ready to go Sunday, we'll all be ready to go." Overhearing Reed's laughter was his co-pilot in the Baltimore secondary, safety Bernard Pollard, who threw some age-mocking barbs to his elder running mate.
Fullback Vonta Leach and Center Matt Birk were also in attendance. Conversation was kept light with the two, who welcomed the opportunity to support their teammate Boldin. Leach looked a tad stiff after Sunday's rout of Oakland but said he would be ready for the upcoming showdown with Pittsburgh.
Overall, a great time was had by all. Guests were treated to some hands on (in some cases literally with Ed Reed) interaction with their Sunday idols, amazing merchandise was auctioned off, and the star of the evening, Anquan Boldin and his charity Q81, made a pile of money to help the kids that need it most.
Those are the type of headlines that should lead the news tonight.