Veteran NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin has opened up about the reasons behind his abrupt decision to retire after 14 years, and they are far from what most people expected.

Anquan Boldin Retirement News

Boldin, 36, announced his retirement on Sunday less than two weeks after signing a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. The wideout most recently played for the Detroit Lions during the 2016 season.

Now, Boldin says he is retiring not because of discontent with the Bills, or because of any physical strain on his body, but rather because he feels he is “drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority,” and that “my life’s purpose is bigger than football.”

According to ESPN’s Jim Trotter — who first reported the news of Boldin’s retirement — the receiver said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Ross Tucker and Vic Carucci on Monday that the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia inspired him to abandon football in order to pursue human rights advocacy work.


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“ I always felt like football would be my passion, football would get me past a lot of things. When I stepped up to the podium, what I said was honestly true. But just seeing things that transpired over the last week or so, I think for me there’s something bigger than football at this point,” said Boldin. “And it’s kind of shocking for me to say that because football has been something that I’ve dedicated my life towards. I can remember as a kid wanting to get to the NFL and watching to be a professional football player. I dedicated my life to that, and I never thought anything would take the place of that passion. But for me, it has.”

Boldin also insisted that his decision to step away from football was not made “all of a sudden,” and that it had nothing to do with the Bills’ preseason struggles, particularly regarding trades and the team’s offense. The wideout also said he is not new to humanitarian work.

“I’m uncomfortable with how divided we are as a country,” Boldin said. “Is it something new to us? No. Is it something that we’re just starting to experience? No. But to see just how divided we are, I’m uncomfortable with that. Do I expect everybody to feel the same way that I do? Of course not. Different people have different passions about different things.”

“Humanitarian work is something that I’ve been working on for years,” he continued. “Advocating for equality, criminal justice reform, all of those things are something that I’ve been working on for years. So this is not just a fly-by-night decision for me. It’s something that I’ve been dealing with for years, and it’s something that I’m willing to dedicate my life towards. Do I think I can solve all the problems that we have in this country? Of course not. But I think I do have a duty to stand up and make my voice heard and be a voice for those that don’t have a voice.”

In 2004, Boldin established the Anquan Boldin Foundation, which is dedicated to improving educational and life opportunities for underprivileged children. Boldin has also spent time on Capitol Hill speaking to Congress — as has Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins — about criminal justice reform over the past two years. Boldin’s 31-year-old cousin, Corey Jones, was shot and killed by a plainclothes officer in Florida in October 2015.

“When I first got into the NFL nobody could tell me anything. I was living life,” Boldin said after winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for volunteer and charity work in February 2016. “I had achieved my dream of one day making it into the NFL, but I soon realized that’s not what life is all about. I realized my purpose in life was not to make it to the NFL and score touchdowns. God put me on this earth for something much bigger than that, and I realized and understand what my purpose is now. … It’s my prayer and my hope that I can live out the rest of my life honoring God and help as many people as possible.”

Boldin — a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2003 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year — retired having finished in ninth place on the all-time NFL receptions list with 1,076 catches for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns. He also played for the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. Boldin helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory following the 2012 season.

Bills General Manager Brandon Beane released a statement regarding Boldin’s decision to retire.

“We respect Anquan’s decision to retire from the NFL,” the statement read. “We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks. He is one of the best receivers to play this game and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”

The Bills are now thus seemingly left with just rookie Zay Jones — a second-round draft pick out of East Carolina — at the wide receiver position, given that Jordan Matthews — whom Buffalo acquired from the Eagles in a trade earlier this month — fractured his sternum in practice last week.

Buffalo lost to the Eagles in their second preseason game in Philadelphia on Thursday, and next visit the Ravens on Saturday.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 11: Anquan Boldin #80 of the Detroit Lions runs with the ball after a catch against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 11, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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