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The Catch of the Day

Arizona rookie Boldin downplays his record-breaking NFL debut

September 14, 2003|From Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — Anquan Boldin had the greatest debut for a wide receiver in NFL history, and he'd just as soon not talk about it.

"To be honest," he said, "I'd rather be a guy who doesn't get attention, but goes out there and plays every play hard."

Boldin's numbers in the Arizona Cardinals' 42-24 season-opening loss in Detroit, make him pretty hard to ignore: 10 catches, 217 yards, two touchdowns.

"That guy is unbelievable," fellow Cardinal wide receiver Bryan Gilmore said. "That guy is what you call a football player. He made some plays on Sunday that baffled me."

The 217 yards broke the record for an NFL rookie in his first game of 212 set by Hugh Taylor of Washington at Philadelphia on Sept. 28, 1947. The performance ranks second among all Cardinals receivers behind Sonny Randle's 256 yards against the New York Giants on Nov. 4, 1962.

Impressively, six of Boldin's catches came on third down, for 172 yards and both touchdowns.

Yet there hasn't been a word of boasting, self-congratulation or anything remotely approaching trash talk in the rounds and rounds of interviews the quiet young man from Florida State endured over the past week.

"I was always taught that pride comes before a fall," he said. "In this league, if you're not humble, the game will humble you. I keep that in the back of my head."

As an example, he points to his muffed punt that led to a Detroit touchdown.

"I probably was a little too aggressive, trying to make something happen when it wasn't there," he said. "That's just something I have to learn from."

Boldin seems to have his performance in perspective.

"You can't just be satisfied with one game," he said. "In this league, you have to prove yourself every week, because if you don't, you won't be here long."

Boldin may be a surprise to most NFL fans, but he's virtually a household name in football-crazy Florida.

"I know a lot about him," said Seattle free safety Damien Robinson, who played for Tampa Bay from 1997 to 2000. "I used to watch him when he played in high school and I was in Tampa. I think he's one of the best athletes I've seen in my life. Before he hurt his knee, he was ridiculous."

As a quarterback at Pahokee High School, Boldin was Florida's Mr. Football with a state record 11,433 career yards. He moved to wide receiver at Florida State and caught two touchdown passes in his first game.

Boldin missed the 2001 season with a torn ACL in his knee, but returned last year to earn the Atlantic Coast Conference Brian Piccolo Award as the league's most courageous player.

He capped his college career by playing quarterback in the Sugar Bowl because Chris Rix was on academic suspension and Adrian McPherson had been kicked off the team. Boldin threw for one touchdown and caught another in the Seminoles' 26-13 loss to Georgia.

Boldin gave up his final year of eligibility to go to the NFL, the first Florida State player to do so since Sebastian Janikowski in 1999. An awful 40-yard time at the NFL draft combine in February cost him in the draft.

"His 40 time was not blazing fast like a lot of teams require," Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren said. "He was just a good football player who runs pretty good, but he wasn't that blazer."

Five receivers were picked ahead of Boldin. He wasn't even Arizona's first pick at that position. The Cardinals chose Bryant Johnson of Penn State in the first round, No. 17 overall, and selected Boldin in the second round, 54th overall.

"I knew what I had to do to get here," Boldin said. "I just continued to work hard and persevere. Whatever you do, there are going to be critics. You just have to keep doing what got you here, and continue to work hard."

He came to a team in dire need of receivers after David Boston, Frank Sanders and MarTay Jenkins left as free agents.

"The receiver position was kind of wide open," Boldin said, "as opposed to going to other teams where they already have guys established in that system, and having to take a back seat."

Very quickly, the Cardinals coaches realized what they had.

"We've been talking about this since he's been here in minicamp," Coach Dave McGinnis said. "Anquan Boldin is a special football player -- not going to be, he is."

Boldin's maturity was as impressive as his talent. He also was a quick study, understanding all facets of the offense, thanks largely to his high school training as a quarterback.

To his teammates, he became simply "Q," and he's already earned their respect.

"Watch him play the whole game," quarterback Jeff Blake said. "Watch him block down the field. He's knocking guys on their butts."

The Cardinals purposely kept Boldin under wraps in the preseason. Now the secret is out, and he will be a target of opposing defenses.

"I told him on Monday, 'In this league, what you find out is the better you are, the better you have to be if you are to continue to be a good player," Sullivan said. "If you are a flash in the pan, you have a good week, and then somebody hears from you a month later."

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