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Community-minded Boldin indebted to former coach

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BALTIMORE — Anquan Boldin's uncommon bond with Joe Marx began with this simple question: Can you throw a football?

Marx had just been appointed head football coach at Pahokee (Fla.) High School and was looking for a quarterback. Impressed by Boldin's athleticism as a junior high point guard, Marx asked the kid for a demonstration of his passing arm.

"I'm a former quarterback," Marx said, "and I was just shocked how this eighth-grader could whip the football."

Boldin became a four-year starter at Pahokee and set a state record with 11,433 career all-purpose yards. He also took a recruiting trip, courtesy of his coach, that would forever influence his life.

Boldin is now a star wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, a three-time Pro Bowl performer who played in the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals. He is also the driving force behind a string of charities in Florida, Arizona and Baltimore.

It's no coincidence that the Anquan Boldin Foundation is dedicated to expanding the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged children, because that's exactly what Marx did for Boldin more than a decade ago.

"In everybody's life, there's somebody that has taken an interest. For me, it was my high school football coach," Boldin said. "Where I was from, football was a way out. It's an impoverished area, so there weren't many jobs. The school system isn't the greatest.

"Joe Marx gave me an opportunity to succeed in football. He helped me be able to go to different camps, see different things, to get away from my community to see there is more out there for me. That did a lot for me. I'm still grateful to this day for that opportunity. So I'm just trying to pass along a different opportunity to kids in that situation."

Most high school football players use college recruiting trips to determine where to play, to check out a school's social life. Boldin's visit to the Midwest with Marx was more like an educational excursion to a foreign country.

"Between his junior and senior year he began to receive attention from national schools — Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State," Marx said. "I took Anquan and another player on a 10-day tour of colleges up there. I think maybe Anquan remembers it and perhaps looks back and sees I went out of my way to show him life outside of Florida."


"He got me outside of my element and enabled me to see there are other options out there," Boldin said. "I think it's hard for somebody to fathom another life you've never seen or never been around before. He opened that door for me."

Marx gave Boldin a chance to excel at football and earn a free college education. Boldin responded by playing brilliantly at quarterback and defensive back, as well as assuming leadership of the team.

"He was one of the few that had a very, very supportive family. His grandmother lived near the school, his mom and dad divorced but they were always around," Marx said. "To this day, I've never heard the kid say a curse word. Nothing but a leader. With all that in mind, I pretty much turned the ball over to him."

After a sensational high school career, Boldin went to Florida State and was promptly converted into a wide receiver by then-coach Bobby Bowden. Although Boldin led the Seminoles with 65 receptions as a senior, Marx believes he would have been more productive throwing the ball instead of catching it.

"I've always been a fan of Bobby Bowden, but I think the biggest mistake Bowden made during his coaching career was not making Anquan a quarterback," Marx said. "Not that he wasn't a great wide receiver, but he was such a great leader."

That ability remains intact, both on the football field and through Boldin's charity work.

Cornesha Dukes, director of the Pahokee Beacon Center, has watched Boldin go shopping for toys with underprivileged kids, provide Thanksgiving dinners for poor families and participate in fundraising golf tournaments. She's also seen him write dozens of checks for thousands of dollars.

"A lot of athletes that leave the neighborhood give back to the community, but Anquan goes above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect," Dukes said. "He's an outstanding role model."

Having received help, Boldin understands the importance of giving it.

"For me, it's being in that situation growing up, being one of those families in need. Everywhere you go, you see that need," he said. "It's always been a goal of mine to position myself to give back. Had I not made it to the NFL, I think I would have been involved in some way in giving back to the community."

Which doesn't surprise Marx in the least.

"I've said this so many times to so many people: He's just as good a person who's ever walked the earth. In the back of my mind I always knew Anquan would remain his humble self and not get himself in trouble the way some athletes do," said Marx, now 59 and three years removed from being a football coach.

Boldin leads the Ravens with 813 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. He is also the team's nominee for the 2010 Walter Payton Man of the Year award, given annually by the NFL to honor a player's volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.

Boldin and Marx don't talk every day, but the coach is on the receiver's speed dial. And whenever Marx needs tickets to a Ravens game, he knows whom to call.

"I guess he remembers what I did for him and doesn't want to forget it, so anytime I want to visit or do those kinds of things, he's always willing to help me out," Marx said.

Earlier this month, Boldin provided Marx with several tough-to-get tickets to Baltimore's home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Marx grew up in Pittsburgh, but there was never any question which team he wanted to win.

"My wife asked who I was pulling for," Marx said. "I always root for my boy."