Santa Clara, Calif. -- Anquan Boldin's first catch Sunday against the Lions will mark the 1,000th of his career. Only 12 receivers in NFL history have reached that milestone. Boldin, genuinely, isn't interested.
"I don't really see myself as a receiver. Never have, never will," Boldin said Thursday. "I don't look at my stats. At the end of the day, they're just numbers."
Wait, he's not a receiver, even though he's leading the 49ers in receptions for a third consecutive season and that has been his job title since 2003, when he broke in with the Arizona Cardinals?
Boldin defines himself as a "football player," an all-encompassing term that former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called the highest compliment possible when espousing a player's virtues.
Joining the 1K Club will mean "nothing" to Boldin if the 49ers (4-10) lose to the Lions (5-9). His goal entering the NFL wasn't to put up statistics. He wanted to last 10 years.
"And 10 years flew by," Boldin said.
Now in his 13th season, he admittedly relies on his technique to keep his slower, 35-year-old body in an NFL uniform, through at least next season.
Like others, he craves championships, and he's 1 for 2 in Super Bowls, losing with the 2008 Cardinals and winning with the 2012 Baltimore Ravens (against the 49ers). Unsigned for 2016, Boldin wants to keep chasing his second ring, and even though the 49ers are no longer poised to contend, he has become attached to the organization and community so much that he "definitely" wants to return.
Catch No. 1 in his career came at the Lions' Ford Field, in the 2003 season opener for the Arizona Cardinals. Boldin recalls it vividly: a third-down reception on an out route toward the Lions sideline. That 20-yard catch kept alive Arizona's opening series, which ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Blake to Boldin.
"He was involved in the three-wide-receiver package, and, from the very beginning, he was competitive," said Geep Chryst, the 49ers offensive coordinator who coached the Cardinals' quarterbacks in 2003.
Boldin finished his debut with 10 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-24 loss.
Detroit's defense won't underestimate Boldin this time. Lions coach Jim Caldwell was the Ravens offensive coordinator when Boldin contributed to a 34-31 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
"There's a special kind of respect for that guy, and we make certain our guys know exactly what they're up against when you line up across from him," Caldwell said.
Caldwell called Boldin "perhaps one of the great competitors of all-time" and "a special guy."
What makes Boldin special? Caldwell, like so many others, credited Boldin's intense drive, work habits and attention to detail.
Boldin moved within one reception of the 1,000 mark after his eight catches in the 49ers' 24-14 loss last Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's fun to go back to Detroit (this week) and have that as a memory," Chryst said in recalling Boldin's debut.
Of the dozen who have reached the 1,000-catch milestone, former 49ers great Jerry Rice is tops with 1,549. Boldin's former Cardinals teammate, Larry Fitzgerald, and the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten both reached that mark earlier this season. Boldin's next catch will tie him with Hines Ward.
Boldin's reaction: "Whatever."